Christ Church, Eltham (Roman Catholic)

History and appearance

As with some other Roman Catholic churches I have visited, I have found that an entry on the following website goes into far more detail on the history and appearance of this church than I could ever hope to do so from the notes I took:

http://taking-stock.org.uk/Home/Dioceses/Archdiocese-of-Southwark/Eltham-Christ-Church

I would just add that, having visited on Pentecost, the pillars were decorated with banners showing angels on a red and gold background, and also had bunting-like decoration made of flowers connecting them.

Furthermore, the stained glass window at the back – depicting Christ glorified – is positioned such that the sun was shining through Jesus at the end of the service. I thought this was beautiful, and have included a photograph of it to the right.

Clergy

The service was conducted by a priest in red and gold vestments, the same colour scheme as that of the banners on the pillars. He was assisted by two others in white vestments with beige and red trimmings, who were either assistant priests or deacons; I couldn’t be sure, as I didn’t have a great view (more on that later).

Several altar boys carried candles during the processions around the church, and the first two Bible readings were given by members of the congregation. Two ladies with quite wonderful singing voices led the responsive prayers and psalms.

Congregation

The congregation was far too large for me to accurately count, and must have numbered somewhere in the region of two hundred people. There was a wide range of ages and ethnicities, and it was not overwhelmingly balanced in favour of one gender or another.

Service

I attended the 11:30 mass, on Pentecost. Due to the size of the congregation, there was not much choice when it came to seats, and I unfortunately found a pillar blocking most of my view of the sanctuary. This, together with the fact that I’d sat next to a gentleman with some sort of disability who made loud noises throughout the service, meant that I unfortunately did not see or hear as much of the service as I’d ideally have liked to, and so this review may be lacking in some details.

The service followed the Mass of Paul VI, the order of service ordinarily used in Roman Catholic churches, which has a basic structure of introductory prayers, Bible readings, communion, and concluding prayers. There were also some hymns sung during the service, the words of which were in hymn books which could be found at the back of the church.

It being Pentecost, the Bible readings were focused very much on the Holy Spirit, and were given from Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 12, and John 16.

As well as Pentecost, today was also the first time that several young members of the congregation were having communion. As today was their first communion, they joined the procession at the beginning; they also appeared to be dressed as brides and grooms. The sermon was on the importance of receiving communion in a pious and reverent manner. After communion, the service ended with notices and a final hymn.

Afterwards

After the service, the members of the congregation either left, stayed in the church to pray, or went into the church hall next door, where – this being the first Roman Catholic church I’ve visited where this was the case – refreshments were available. A cake sale was also taking place.

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