A good friend of mine who is a parish priest in Manchester, has sent me a copy of the proposal for the re-ordering of his Church together with some photos of work in progress and the completed project.
St Joseph’s is a thriving parish where baptisms, applications for places in the school and mass attendance have at least tripled. The Church which was arranged with a view to a small and declining congregation can, at times, barely accommodate the Sunday Mass congregation. The forward facing altar took up a significant part of the nave:
and the tabernacle was on a standalone podium with a screen behind it, taking up more valuable space, essentially blocking off what was once the sanctuary:
This is a photo of that stage in the works where the Parish Priest has nightmares and hopes that it will all turn out OK:
A lot of space in the Church has now been recovered for the congregation because the altar has once again become the focus of the main lines of sight onto the sanctuary, as the principal object in the Church for everyone. I think we could agree that the tabernacle has a more dignified setting:
Details have not been neglected. For example, the sacrarium was disused and looking the worse for wear:
It has now been repaired and restored to use:
The Lady altar has been refurbished and has an altar that is moveable in case any older, visiting priests find it difficult to celebrate Mass ad orientem .
and the Baptistery looks like a place where something important is going to happen:
In this parish, a minority of the congregation have English as a first language and therefore the modern liturgical focus on wordiness rather misses the point. The new arrangement of the Church provides a much greater visual impact within the Sacred Liturgy. The provision of altar rails makes it easier for families with young children at crowded Masses to come for Holy Communion with appropriate dignity and reverence. (Young families are a significant part of this parish.)
The parish priest presented his proposals for re-ordering (should we not rather call it restoration?) not only on liturgical grounds but with reference to the needs of a growing, and ethnically very diverse parish in an inner city area.