St Joseph’s, Roehampton (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded in 1869, and the present building was opened in 1881 by the Jesuits, being extended in 1955. It has links with two small convents which are nearby.

Appearance

Upon entering the church, one’s gaze is drawn to a large crucifix hanging from the ceiling, with models of Mary and St. John on either side. This crucifix hangs above the altar, which has a silver cross on top and is flanked by two candles. To the left of the altar is a lectionary, and behind it against the front wall is a high altar, on which is placed the tabernacle for Eucharistic reservation. As I visited on the second Sunday of Lent, the tabernacle was draped in the Lenten colour of purple. To the left of the high altar is an icon of the Holy Family, to its right one of Christ, and above it is a rose window.

The side walls of the church have stained glass windows – some of them depicting saints, others of a simpler design featuring a “SJ” for Saint Joseph – beneath which are pictures of the Stations of the Cross. On the wall to the left of the church there were also some paintings of New Testament events such as Pentecost in a very modern style.

In a corner at the front of the church was a statue of Christ. There was also a statue of the Virgin Mary and a statue of a male saint (whose identity I couldn’t ascertain) at the back of the church, where there was also a font of holy water and shelves with leaflets.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in purple vestments, accompanied by a deacon in white and red vestments and a large number of altar-servers, some of whom were dressed in what looked like beige monastic habits. A second priest, in a white cassock with a purple stole, helped serve communion. A choir was situated in an alcove of the church at the front, and a lady from the congregation came up to give some of the readings and prayers.

Congregation

There were roughly 100 people in the congregation, but I was unable to make an exact count. A large proportion (perhaps about two thirds) was made up of ethnic minorities, and there were a large amount of children there as well.

Service

The service was very similar in structure to those I attended at the other Roman Catholic churches I have visited, following the Pauline Mass order of service. The service started with the altar servers processing up the main aisle to the altar with a crucifix on a pole, during which a hymn was sung and the priest censed the altar. After prayers of confession, there came a reading, Genesis 12:1-4, followed by Psalm 32 sung with responses, and then a reading of 2 Timothy 1:8-10. The Gospel reading came next, preceded and followed by an anthem; it was Matthew 17:1-9, on the Transfiguration.

After the readings came the sermon, reflecting on the Transfiguration and also on the Trinity and the recurring references to mountains throughout scripture. Prayers came after this, followed by notices and a collection. The choir then sung a hymn while the priest prepared the wafer and wine for communion, which was followed by some mostly sung prayers, including “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Latin.

The congregation then knelt as the priest lifted up the wafer and the wine in turn while prayers were said asking for them to become the Body and Blood of Christ. After the sharing of the peace, the congregation went to receive communion, which was served both at the front of the church by the priest and at the back by a second priest, who hadn’t before this done anything in the service.

After communion, there was a hymn sung with the congregation seated, accompanied by a guitar, as the leftover communion was stored in the tabernacle in the high altar. After more prayers, some more notices were announced. The priest then asked if anybody had a birthday over the coming week, and those who did stood while the congregation sung a blessing to them.

The priest then blessed the congregation, and processed to the back of the church with the altar-servers while a hymn was sung to St. Patrick, whose feast day it is tomorrow.

Afterwards

There were no refreshments served afterwards. The priest stood at the door, saying goodbye to members of the congregation as they left.

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Our Lady of the Rosary, Sutton (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded in 1883 as a temporary iron building, with a new and permanent building opening in 1892. The church was enlarged in 1912, and further alterations were made 20 years later.

Appearance

There is a contrast inside the church between the relatively simple nave area, and the resplendent sanctuary area. The front of the church is in white marble, with a large mosaic of the crucifixion and smaller mosaics of Mary, St. John, and four seraphim representing the Evangelists. A Bible and two candles stand on the altar, which is flanked by a pulpit and font, all in the same white marble as the front wall. At the front left of the church (hidden behind the pillars of the archways which demarcate the aisles in the picture to the right) is a beautiful mosaic of Christ, in front of which burn lots of small candles lit by members of the congregation. Likewise, at the front right of the church is a mosaic of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in a similar style, although with no candles.

Pictures of the stations of the cross are situated around the sides of the church, and there are also three statues at the front – one is named as a St. Anthony, but I couldn’t find anything which said who the other two were; one was of a bishop (possibly St. Augustine) and the other was of a woman (possibly the Virgin Mary). At the back of the church is a gallery from which the choir sung and on which the organ is situated, and over the door at the back hangs a copy of da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in green vestments, helped by several young children as altar-servers who carried candles, incense thuribles, etc. There was also a choir which sung from the gallery at the back, but I was unable to see how many people were in it, and the first Bible reading (see below) was read by a woman from the congregation.

Congregation

The congregation was very large considering the size of the church. I was unable to make a precise count, but there must have been at least 100 people there. There was a mixture of ages, a roughly equal number of males and females, and a relatively large – probably just under half the congregation – number of ethnic minorities.

Service

The service was very similar to the one which I attended last month at Sacred Heart in Wimbledon – I now realise that most if not all Roman Catholic services I attend will be following the Pauline Mass order of service, just as the Orthodox churches I have visited were following the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

The service started with the altar servers processing up the main aisle to the altar with a cross on a pole, after which a hymn was sung. After prayers, the Gloria was sung by the choir, mostly in English but with the first few lines in Latin as a refrain – I must note here that I found this to be sung very beautifully. The first Bible reading – Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20 – was then read by a lady who came up from the congregation. This was followed by a song from the choir, after which the priest gave the second reading, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10. After a short anthem from the choir came the gospel reading, Matthew 5:17-37, after which the priest gave the sermon, on the subject of the law of God. The Roman Catholic version of the Nicene Creed was then said by the congregation, after which there were various prayers and anthems during which the elements for communion were brought up to the altar and the offering was taken.

The congregation then knelt down in prayer during which the priest lifted up the wafer and wine to be used for communion, with a bell being rung several times. After the Lord’s Prayer and the sharing of the peace, most of the congregation went up to the altar to receive communion.

After communion, the priest gave some brief notices, and a final hymn was sung before the dismissal.

Afterwards

Similar to at Sacred Heart, there were no refreshments or the like after the service, but some members of the congregation stayed behind to pray in the emptying church.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded in 1887, commissioned by the wealthy Edith Arendrup, designed by Frederick Walters, and administered by the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits). Building continued on the church until 1901. In 1990 a new altar and tiled floor were installed, and in 2013 the administration of the parish was handed over from the Jesuits to the Archdiocese of Southwark. Next door are church halls refurbished in 2008, in which various community groups are hosted.

Appearance

The large church is in the Gothic style, with pointed arches and pillars inside above each of which is a statue of a saint or angel. Stained glass windows display saints, martyrs, and Christ either crucified or as king of glory. Pictures of the stations of the cross adorn the side walls of the nave, to the left of which is a side-chapel dedicated to the souls of Caroline Currie and her husband, benefactors to the church who funded the construction of one of the aisles. Plaques in memory of other former parishioners are dotted around, and at the back left of the church is an ornate font behind a closed metal gate. Near to that is a large statue of Mary holding Christ, dead after the crucifixion, as well as some candles. Candles burn at the back right of the church as well, near to which is a large crucifix and stairs going up to the choir gallery.

At the very front of the church is the old altar, replaced in 1990 and now used as a large tabernacle for Eucharistic reservation. In front of this is the current altar, on which two candles burn. To the left of the altar is a wooden pulpit (with a plaque next to it in memory of a priest who died while preaching from it) and to the right of the altar is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Above the sanctuary area is a large crucifix, flanked by images of Mary, St. John, and angels.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in green and golden vestments, helped by three other men (probably deacons or sub-deacons of some sort) in white and red vestments. There was also a choir, although as they were situated in the upper gallery at the back of the church I was unable to see how many people it was comprised of.

Congregation

There was a large congregation, numbering somewhere between 110 and 120, with a mix of ages and ethnicities and a roughly equal balance between the genders.

Service

Organ music began to play about five minutes before the beginning of the service, which started with a hymn during which the priest censed a crucifix on a pole. There were then prayers of confession, followed by Gloria being sung. One of the deacons then ascended the pulpit and gave a reading from Isaiah. This was followed by Psalm 26 being used as a responsive prayer, after which the deacon gave the second reading, from 1 Corinthians. It was then time for the Gospel reading, which was done with a lot more ceremony – the priest brought a Bible up from the altar to the singing of “Alleluia” , flanked by two of the deacons holding large candlesticks and the other with an incense thurible, and read the passage from Matthew on the calling of the first disciples.

The priest then gave the sermon, on the subject of making time in our lives for prayer. This was followed by the Roman Catholic version of the Nicene Creed being sung in Latin, after which there were some prayers in English, and then another prayer sung in Latin. The collection was then taken, during which time the choir sang and the priest and deacons prepared the communion bread and wine at the altar.

After this, there were some more prayers, and the choir sung the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord…”), after which there were more prayers during which the priest lifted up the wafer and wine to be used for communion, and then the Lord’s Prayer. The congregation shared the sign of peace, and after some more prayers communion was served.

At the end of communion, the unused elements were placed in a tabernacle at the far end of the sanctuary, after which there were some more prayers and then some announcements. The priest then blessed the congregation and ended the service, which had lasted for roughly an hour and ten minutes.

Afterwards

Most of the congregation left the church after the service had finished, with some staying behind in the pews to pray in silence. Unlike other churches I have been to, there did not seem to be a place where refreshments were served afterwards, although I may have simply overlooked one.