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Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph, Battersea Park, London
The church: Our
Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph, Battersea Park, London.
Denomination: Roman Catholic,
Archdiocese of Southwark.
The building: A Victorian brown-brick edifice. The church has a main nave
plus a side aisle (which I understand was the original church)
that now houses the Lady altar. The interior is painted a
pale terra cotta colour but is in very bad repair: the plaster
is peeling and the heating is not very effective. It's a far
cry from the well-maintained and affluent churches across
the river in Chelsea.
The church: The parish priest is a member of the Comboni
Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), and the vast
majority of the congregation seem to be Filipino and female.
There is a branch of the Legion of Mary and group of the El
Shaddai charismatic worship movement, of which many of the
congregation and choir were members (wearing El Shaddai tracksuit
tops and mantillas, an unusual combination). The church holds
regular prayer meetings.
The neighbourhood: At the east edge of Battersea Park, and a stone's
throw from multi-cultural Queenstown Road, the church is located in a
cul-de-sac next to the railway lines, the iconic disused Battersea
Power Station, and some gas works. It's not a particularly residential
area, and I'm guessing that many of the congregation don't live nearby
but come as members of the Filipino community in London.
The cast: The parish priest, the Revd Tesfamichael Debesay Negusse, MCCJ,
presided and preached at the mass. A band and choir (wearing
white suits and navy shirts) of at least a dozen helped lead
the worship, and various parishioners read the lessons and
acted as ushers and communion ministers. Those with particular
tasks wore an appropriate badge.
The date & time: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21 January 2012, 12.00pm.
What was the
name of the service?
Mass with Gospel Choir and Music Group.
How full was
The church's website says that the building can accommodate about 200,
and it was pretty full.
welcome you personally?
A lady greeted me with a cheery "Good morning" as she gave
me a hymn book, service sheet and newsletter.
Was your pew
It was an unremarkable wooden pew with fixed kneeler: perfectly
How would you
describe the pre-service
A parishioner was leading prayers (I think the Angelus) from the
lectern, and many there were joining in with the responses. Others
chatted and greeted each other quietly as the prayers continued right
until the start of mass.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"Can someone please shut the door at the back? Thank you."
What books did
the congregation use during the
Celebration Hymnal for Everyone,
printed mass sheet including readings and a news bulletin.
instruments were played?
A keyboard, at least two guitars, drums, and some tinkling
Did anything distract
One lady walked up and down the aisle during the service carrying
fairly large boxes tied up with string through to the sacristy.
Also, the congregation gesticulated more than I'm used to:
raising their hands with the response "And with your spirit"
and all holding hands during the Lord's Prayer. I'm afraid
I didn't participate.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The music was fairly happy-clappy, although the hymns were
all standard post-Vatican II Catholic ones and not modern worship
songs. The celebration of mass was entirely proper: dignified
but reasonably informal, with the priest assisted by about
six robed servers.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Father Tesfamichael spoke clearly with scant reference
to notes and came across as both genuine and human. Given
that English is neither his first language nor that of most
of the parishioners, I thought he pitched the level just right.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
Mark 1:14-20 (Jesus calls his first disciples). In his Gospel,
Mark is seeking to emphasise the divinity of Christ. The call
to the fishermen to "Follow me" represents an invitation and
an opportunity rather than an order. How do we respond to
that invitation, and what is the difference between a career
and a vocation? There are a number of different vocations
that Christians experience, and all are equally valuable.
We are all called to follow Christ in our daily lives, whatever
Which part of
the service was like being in
There is much criticism of post-Vatican II church music, but
I thought the choir and band really did it justice at this
mass. They sang harmonies in tune and set a good upbeat tempo
with a slight lilt that made it easy to join in. The singing
added greatly to the service as a whole, and it seemed a genuine
and spontaneous expression of worship.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
In general, I find the peace bearable only when people
shake hands with those they can reach without moving their
feet. Here, that was sadly not the case. The band struck up
with "Let there be peace shared among us" and chaos descended
while the congregation rushed around shaking hands and (rather
curiously) waving at each other, two fingers outstretched
in the peace (or victory) position. It wasn't peaceful
at all in my view, but then the missal does say to "make a
sign of peace according to local custom." Clearly customs
are different in Battersea!
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One or two parishioners said hello to me, and the priest welcomed me to
the parish and asked where I had come from.
How would you
describe the after-service
There didn't seem to be any, as it was lunchtime by the time
the service finished.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
7 – I very much liked the upbeat music and the less
formal style, but the tight-knit and established Filipino
community was rather impenetrable to the visitor.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Yes, especially seeing the enthusiasm and clearly deep faith of the
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The frantic waving during the peace that was faintly reminiscent
of a pop concert.
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