Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The story of a Lincolnshire parish church

In 1976 Mrs L and myself, still yet to achieve the joy of parenthood, moved to Bourne in Lincolnshire.

The church was a typical English post Victorian structure, rectangular, pretty plain, much like a village hall with statues.

But, we liked it. We attended the Novus Ordo Mass and the sense of being part of a Catholic community was reasonably strong.

A church where people go round in circles - St Gilbert of Sempringham,
Bourne, Lincolnshire

Within a year, a new parish church had been completed......a circular one...of course!

I have never appreciated the reasoning behind circular or semi circular church design.

To me it was a constant source of distraction and irritation as, when you stared straight ahead, instead of looking at the tabernacle you locked eyeballs with members of the parish Mother's Union or the Secretary of the Bingo Club.

The new church must have cost a pretty penny as it featured some revolutionary (literally) developments.

Sliding screens were in place so that the sanctuary could be shut off and a bar and food preparation area exposed.

We never attended any social events there but, I guess it had greater use as a base for dances and whist drives than it had for Holy Mass.

This is a theme that I keep returning to but such developments are symptomatic of the post Vatican 2 era when all rational thinking was flushed away in a scramble to make ourselves more ordinary.

 Fr Oswald Baker used to describe it as: "putting the Church in a boiler suit" - workmen's overalls.

The functional and unassuming fabric of the church was disposed of, out went the altar rails, away went the statues (to be replaced by wrought iron figures and impressionist type images), the tabernacle was moved to some obscure corner and the altar morphed into a good old Protestant table.

It followed quite naturally that genuflecting was redundant and that the holy water fonts were left to go dry.

There is nothing unique about this story, it happened everywhere in the world.

But it does illustrate just how embedded the ways of the new religion have become.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation England and Wales the Catholic population just as quickly adopted the new faith and forgot the true one that had nurtured the sick and the frail, educated the young and provided work for the poor.

And it is precisely the same in the post Vatican II era.

The collective memory (not a rose tinted on by any means) has gone and, in its place?

Nothing of substance, nothing of depth, nothing that can last - just a circular Church where you go round and round in ever diminishing circles.


  1. So true. We (well the clergy really) have debased the Faith. Now they wonder why congregations are diminishing. Why no one goes to confession. Its all part of a reductionism of the Faith. And it all started with Vat2. What have our shepherds done to us??
    Pope Francis gives the impression of a priest who has risen to the top job. Soon after his visit to the Holy land and meeting in Rome with a Rabbi and a Mullah all friendly equal etc. . We get three israeli teenagers mercylessly murdered. Its time he stopped playing on the world stage and got down to some serious Poping.

    1. According to n Israeli friend - the murders took place more-or-less straight after the kidnapping - which means the papal entourage were schlepping around with the Men of Blood and their sympathisers.

  2. There's a good orthodox-minded priest there these days from Africa. He has apparently shook things up quite a bit and doesn't take any nonsense from the parishioners. Apparently he's in charge, and they know it. Which is how it should be.


  3. ALL

    Man won't kneel --
    Daily to pray
    But lift his hands,
    To applaud and play.

    Man won't kneel --
    Examine acts dead
    But perform for himself
    By bowing his head.

    Man won't kneel --
    Emotes bad behavior
    No matter reviews
    The director's his savior.

    Man won't kneel --
    The star, can't fail...
    So the Prop-Man struck
    The Communion rail.

  4. I know of at least two churches built one in the 1940s, one in the 1950s, to be both Church and parish centre, and in each the transformation achieved by screening of the (East End) altar area. Both were in communities which had expanded suddenly and exponentially and the idea was that a Catholic community centre was needed in the fight against godlessness.

    In the one in Wales, it was hard for the local Baptists to separate out the relative iniquities of alcohol and dancing, and both on Sundays, and in a church at that.

  5. I also belonged to a round church for a time. There were two churches in town. My home parish got a homosexual for a pastor so I went over to the round church. Even when sitting so as to not twist your neck (angled seats), there was still the matter of seeing the people across from you and your eyes could not help but see what they were doing. That is when I started to pray with a 1962 missal and learned the Vetus Ordo! The priest would walk around the inner circle like a caged animal and say things like, "I know mass is good when I am having fun and I am having fun."

    I moved away from that town and those two CINO parishes.

  6. Sorry to disappoint, but I rather like round churches. I find them cosy. But I would prefer it if the altar/sanctuary was against the wall (Tabernacle in the middle), so that you don't see the people behind. They remind me of the Templar churches. What's good enough for the Templars, is OK for me...

    The name of the Church in the pic above, "St Gilbert of Sempringham", so-o does not go with that Church. With a name like that, one would expect it to be some kind of ancient edifice, a Norman arched doorway, heavy oak door, creaky, bent floorboards, that familiar smell of wax, ancient stone stain-glass windows, solid stone carved altar... Now if they built that new round church in a pseudo-Templar style I'd be happy.

    ...Then I get woken up from my reverie and hear a voice in the distance crying out that the Templars were so baaad. We must apologise... for the Templars, the Cruuuuuuusaaaaades... Arghh!

  7. They are lucky they have a church. for people who are in aberystywth are still without a church building. and we probably won't get one until 2017. sad times.
    But the thing that the bishop is allowing is for the parishoners to put their input for design. and we are lucky that the parishoners are very traditional. we celebrate mass ad orientem most of the time

    1. "But the thing that the bishop is allowing is for the parishioners to put their input for design."

      Blimey. And I thought Parish Liturgical Committees were bad...
      Design your own Church... It gets ever more scarier!

  8. There is a beautiful circular shaped church in Mostar, Malta. Eye balling fellow worshippers can be a distraction in the choir stalls of historic cathedrals and cruciformed churches the world over.