The clergyman’s wife is an art restorer. The children are a cheery bunch, and the youngest looks set to follow his father into the village rugby team in due course. The church stands on a charming green sloping up from the road, with an adjoining hall where the Sunday school and social gatherings take place.
It sounds like an Anglican parish of the Miss Marple era, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. It’s a thriving Catholic church and the clergyman, Fr Ed Tomlinson, is a priest in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
When Benedict XVI instituted the ordinariate, it was with the aim of inviting Anglicans to bring their heritage – liturgical, musical, social, cultural – into full communion with the Catholic Church. And for those who don’t quite know what that means, you can easily visit some ordinariate parishes and find out for yourself.
There are not many, but there is an interesting variety. To note three: St Anselm’s, Pembury (described above) is in Kent, and began life as a rather bleak hall built as an outstation for the nearby parish of Tunbridge Wells. Under ordinariate care it is now a rather delightful church: altar rails around the sanctuary, hand-embroidered kneelers in traditional designs and a fine outdoor Calvary. It serves a busy community with lots of young families.
In Yorkshire, the beautiful church of St Oswald in the village of Gainford is in the care of Fr Ian Grieves of the Darlington ordinariate. The parish has a surpliced choir, glorious music and a busy round of social events. And then there’s the ordinariate parish I know best, the Church of the Most Precious Blood, London Bridge, where the priest is Fr Christopher Pearson. The children’s choir sings Merbecke at the main Sunday Mass. There are street processions several times a year, as well as weekday lunchtime Confessions and Masses for City workers.
The thing these ordinariate parishes have in common is that they are thriving, with packed congregations and a sense of confidence in what they are doing.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection