A true story

The comment of Emma (17) on my last post reminds me of an episode from my time 13 years ago as parochial administrator of St John Fisher, Thamesmead South. I enjoyed my time there - I had a nice little town house on the estate, got permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the downstairs chapel and introduced daily Mass there on an eastward-facing altar I built myself. It was a small community in a "Local Ecumenical Project" (I did not opt to celebrate the "simultaneous eucharist".) The collection was about £100 per week so I used the skills learnt from my father and did all the repairs to the house myself (plumbing, electrical, flooring, etc.) Stood me in good stead when looking for builders later.

One year, two girls came and asked me if they could join the Confirmation class. At 16, they were four years older than the others but joined in with good spirit and came regularly to Mass. They were called Nicky and Tracy.

South Thamesmead is widely regarded as a "sink" estate. Its one international claim to fame is that is was the location for the filming of The Clockwork Orange. Its reputation was undeserved - I have worked in much rougher estates and the people were generally hard-working and honest. There were many refugees from all over the place as well as a good number of ex-servicemen. One convert who became a good friend was a sergeant from the Paratroop Regiment and veteran of the Falklands War.

When it came to the final part of the Confirmation preparation, I had a fit of conscience and said to the youngsters, "If there is anything that you would especially like in the way of music for the Confirmation, you can choose. Are there any hymns you would like to have?"

There was a rather dumbfounded pause. Then Tracy spoke up with confidence. "Look, Father, the only hymns we know are "Colours of Day" and "Bind us Together" so why don't you choose something decent for us?"

Never forgot that.

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