Saturday, 12 July 2008

Saint George Preston, and a Bit About the Synod.

The Nave of the Church. All these pictures will repay right clicking to expand.
The Outside.

The Sanctuary.


Our Lady and St George in the south arcade.


Our Lady from the convent.

Confessional and the Cure D'Ars.

Part of the frescos.

Above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Looking west.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel behind the High Altar.

The altar.

Thursday evening took me to St George's Church in Preston for a Forward in Faith meeting during which we were looking forward to hearing John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley, speaking. First of all, the Church is a magnificent Romanesque Basilica in design, furnished with all the trappings which a hundred years of Anglo Catholicism would lead you to expect, so glory and terror in proportion to each other, but glory being by far the overwhelming party. Around the walls are frescos of biblical characters who were on a journey to the Lord, from the ark of the covenant to David playing in front of the Lord, all marching East, towards the tabernacle and the rising son. The effect is extraordinary and not unlike the stunning parade of witness offered by the Ravenna mosaics. For myself, of course, you know that I am going to point out that the nave altar jars with this movement and adds a note of structural and liturgical incoherence but it is a very fine nave altar, so is to an extent redeemed by it's own beauty.

Behind the proper altar is a small Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where the tabernacle is enthroned. This makes for a welcome quiet space, by the confessional. There is also a modern Lady Chapel to the North which is of interest as is the fine statue of Our Lady of Victories, rescued from a nearby Roman Catholic Convent as they closed. The Church of St George is part of the Preston central Parish, with St John's (Preston Minster) and the Prince of Peace Chapel, which is, I think, in the Civic Centre and operates as a quiet place and worship space on busy shopping days. A very fine Parish indeed in this most interesting town.

And so to the meeting. It was very well attended and we rattled through the business at a great rate of knots, ably assisted by Fr Roger Parker from St Catherine's, Burnley, another bastion of the Faith. Mrs Vivienne Goddard then spoke about her experiences at Synod, before Fr Paul Benfield, a lawyer, gave us his legal take on proceedings. This filled us with a great amount of hope for the future as he explained the various processes the bills have to pass through and how the synod will be restructured before the final ratifying votes. There is time to fight for what we want. Bishop John left us in no doubt that there is all to play for, mentioning a forthcoming meeting of Bishops during the Lambeth Conference for those from the whole world sympathetic to us and giving us a few hints of what is already going on in the Church to support us. I can say little, but take heart. Those of you who have lived by the sea will know that there is a very peculiar moment each day when, if you listen hard by the waterline, there is the most odd silence then a sigh, as the tide changes. We may well be at a moment when the tide is about to change, at least in the hearts of some of those who voted on Monday evening. As I said at the start of all this, there will be many Bishops going home to their Dioceses, feeling embarrassed as they slowly see how many people under their care they have voted against.

In the meantime, it is very much business as usual, with a veneer of despair, gradually being wiped away. Whether it will return in a few years is unknown, but one thing is sure, we will be better prepared to take action if, in six years, we are unable to abide by the will of the Synod which seems less and less to reflect the will of the wider Church. Business as usual as well for this blog, too, as we enter another week tomorrow, singing, as St Augustine said, alleluia and keeping on walking to the Kingdom of God.