Church & History

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Consecration of St Mary’s

The Bishop at the consecration

The Bishop at the consecration

The consecration of the church took place on December the 5th, 1936. At 6.45am – for the last time in that place – there was a Solemn High Mass and Holy Communion in St Leonard’s, and then at 3.30pm, the Lord Bishop of the diocese came to perform the Rite of Consecration. The procession emerged from the Church of St Leonard, going round the exterior of the new church to the west door where it divided into two lines between which the Bishop and his officers passed. The closed doors came into view, marked with the two crowned letters, M. for Our Lady Mary, and L, for our Patron Leonard. There the Bishop knocked three times with his crozier, and after versicles and responses, the doors were thrown open and the procession entered, the keys being delivered to the Bishop by the People’s Warden. Accompanied by the assistants at the ceremony the Bishop proceeded to the Altar, thereafter visiting the font, the choir-gallery, the chancel, the lectern, and the pulpit before returning to the Altar steps for the Act of Consecration –

‘By virtue of our sacred office in the Church of God we do now declare to be consecrate, and for ever set apart from all profane and common uses this House of God, under the name of Saint Mary-the-Virgin, and to the Glory of the ever blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.’

The whole ceremony was completed by the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass upon the new High Altar, its polished marble gleaming through lace, its majesty enhanced by the glorious baldachino, surrounded by the incense that is the prayer of the saints and the lights that signify Christ, our Light. The English cloth-of-gold High Mass vestments that were used on that occasion are still used at St Mary’s, though wear and tear and age have meant that a new set [this time French cloth-of-gold bullion] have had to be procured. Most fittingly these are a memorial to Fr Johnson.

As a result of the consecration of the new church, St Leonard’s hall was transferred to the Mission Church of the Holy Spirit, which was used solely for services from that Advent Sunday. After the 5th of December, 1936, the old St Leonard’s was used as the Parish Hall and the organisations of the parish met there ‘until such time as a permanent Parish Hall is built’ – that was to be many years in the future.