St Joseph’s, New Malden (Roman Catholic)

History

The church was founded as a missionary “Mass Centre” in 1905, being expanded into today’s church between 1921 and 1931. Previously dedicated to St. Egbert of Northumbria, the dedication was changed to St. Joseph (husband of Mary) in 1923. St. Joseph’s was raised to the rank of parish in 1949, and was officially consecrated as a church proper on 13 September 1951.

Appearance

While it would be unfair to call the interior “plain”, it is not as richly decorated as the other Roman Catholic churches that I have so far visited. There are some statues, but they were all covered in purple drapes for Lent – even the crucifix behind the altar at the front was covered in one. The windows aren’t very large, with most of the light coming from electric lamps; this was used to great effect by having the lights brighten during the service and decrease in brightness afterwards, with the church bathed in light when the service was taking place and somewhat dim when it wasn’t. An altar stands at the front with four candles on it and with a simple pulpit to the left of it. Behind the altar is a tabernacle flanked by six candles.

Clergy

The service was led by a priest in resplendent purple and gold vestments over a white cassock. He was accompanied by two altar-boys and a deacon, who all had white vestments. A lady from the congregation came up to the pulpit to take some of the readings and prayers, and a choir of about 11 people was in a balcony at the back of the church.

Congregation

The congregation was too large for me to accurately count, but probably numbered around 100-110. I noticed a reasonably large proportion of ethnic minorities and younger people, as well as a somewhat equal balance between genders.

Service

The service was very similar in structure to those I attended at the other Roman Catholic churches I have visited, following what I believe was the Pauline Mass order of service. The service started with the priest, deacon and altar-boys processing up the main aisle to the altar with a crucifix on a pole (even this had a Lenten purple drape on it!) during which the choir sung a hymn. After prayers of penitence, there came the Old Testament reading, Ezekiel 37:12-14, followed by part of Psalm 129 sung by the choir, and then a reading of Romans 8:8-11. The Gospel reading came next, preceded by an anthem, John 11:1-45 on the raising of Lazarus.

After the readings came the sermon. This was related to the readings, being on the subject of raising to life, and was also used to encourage the congregation to go to confession more often. The sermon was followed by the Nicene Creed sung in Latin, after which prayers were said, both for some people preparing to be baptised into the church (who went up to the front while prayers were being said for them) and general prayers of intercession.

A collection was then taken while the choir sung a hymn (which was unfortunately interrupted several times by bursts of static from the sound system) and the elements for communion were taken up to the altar, at the end of which one of the altar boys censed the congregation. After some more prayers, some of which (including the Lord’s Prayer) were in Latin, there came the sharing of the peace and a hymn by the choir in Latin.

The choir then came down from the balcony that they had been in and sung another Latin hymn, after which they were the first to go up to communion, followed by most of the rest of the congregation. After communion had been taken, there were prayers, followed by notices and a dismissal blessing. The service lasted roughly an hour and fifteen minutes.

Afterwards

Immediately after the service had ended, the priest, deacon and altar-boys processed with the veiled crucifix back to the church door, where the priest said goodbye to those leaving. No refreshments were available, although according to the church website they would have been there for the end of the earlier service (there being two on Sunday mornings).

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