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Peter and St Paul, New Brighton, England
The church: St
Peter and St Paul, New Brighton, England.
Denomination: Roman Catholic,
The building: A well-known landmark, the "Dome of Home", a cathedral-like
domed building dating from the early 1930s and standing high
above the River Mersey opposite the Liverpool shoreline, and
which got its name from sailors returning to their Scouse
homes. At present the main body of the church is closed and
mass is celebrated in the day chapel, formerly the priests'
vestry, newly refurbished and plainly decorated in light colours.
The entrance is round the back of the huge church, up a ramp
and through a side room. However (and this is the exciting
bit!) there are plans in the pipeline to revamp and use the
whole of the building. An organisation called Institute
of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society
of apostolic life that specialises in administering parishes
and schools that have closed or are in danger of closing,
is currently negotiating with the the new bishop of Shrewsbury,
the Rt Revd Mark Davies, to have services resume in the main
The church: St Peter and St Paul was threatened
with closure in 2008, but a self-help group SOUL (Save Our
Unique Landmark) was set up to pinpoint the importance of
this fine local iconic landmark. Even so, in August 2008 it
did close despite pleas from the congregation. But at length
the prayerful persistence of the SOUL group paid off and the
church was partially reopened in March 2011.
The neighbourhood: New Brighton is a seaside resort in the town of Wallasey on
the peninsula called the Wirral. For decades New Brighton
was a thriving holiday destination for many Merseyside people.
Good rail and bus links, and at one time a direct river ferry
crossing to Liverpool, ensured its popularity. In 1974 the
pier closed and was dismantled. The swimming baths have also
gone now but there is currently a building programme in progress
– a sport and leisure facility, a boutique hotel, and
The cast: The Revd Philip Moor, celebrant and preacher, recently appointed
to the newly created parish of Apostles and Martyrs in Wallasey.
The date & time: Friday, 4 March 2011, 9.00am – the first service since
the church's closure over two years ago.
What was the
name of the service?
How full was the building?
Full to overflowing! Up to 150 inside (a space that seats
only 45) and approximately 50 outside. A crowd of people,
including teachers from the primary school adjacent to the
church, school caretaker, local town councilors, mothers and
children, all smiling and welcoming. Many were supporters
from parishes in the local area and beyond.
Did anyone welcome you
We were welcomed on arrival with a parish news sheet.
Was your pew
I had to stand throughout because of sheer numbers, but the
pews (fetched from a church in Shropshire) looked comfortable
How would you
describe the pre-service
Quiet on arrival. But gradually, as the day chapel filled,
conversation levels grew into animated chatter, a hubbub of
expectancy. A good-humoured atmosphere but also dignified,
especially when the priest was about to enter.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"A very warm welcome to you all on this great occasion."
What books did
the congregation use during the
instruments were played?
Because it was full, I was conscious of being jostled like at a crowded
football match at times, and also of having to clear the way for the
celebrant to get past to administer communion.
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Rapturous, capturing the spirit of the moment and the feel
of the occasion. The mass was simple, said with great feeling,
not rushed or gabbled. Though solemn in the right parts, it
was cheerful and fairly informal. Everyone
was in party mood. The day chapel was bursting at the seams, but a bit of free
space enabled three small children to amuse themselves quietly
for most of the time.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Enthusiastic, ebullient and "right there" with the
congregation, saying what they wanted to hear. The priest received a round of applause at the
conclusion of the homily and another at the end of the service.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
This is the beginning of an exciting time for the people of
Wallasey and for the diocese. It will send out a message that
the Roman Catholic Church is alive in this part of England,
looking forward with confidence and faith and hope for the
Which part of
the service was like being in
The air of quiet dignity and solemnity with which the priest and
eucharistic ministers filtered their way through the mass of people
during the communion distribution.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
Being very tightly packed into a relatively small space! The
windows were beaded over with condensation from people's breaths.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Having got into the chapel, it was difficult to get out without
stopping for a quick conversation with everyone in there.
Outside, television cameras and the local press were busy
interviewing members of the congregation. I chatted to one
of the local councilors and members of the action group SOUL
One lady had her arm round the shoulders of the priest.
How would you
describe the after-service
I was invited to a house locally where one of the SOUL activists
lives and was given tea, biscuits and cake in her very pretty
front room. The tea was very hot.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
8 – It is a fair distance from where I live, but I would consider
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Yes, without any doubt.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The little children playing happily under the altar as Father
Philip celebrated the holy mysteries.
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