The Unseen St Clement’s (well, nearly!)
Everybody who is anybody sees the St Clement’s web site - and I mean anybody – Archbishops, Princes and Princesses, Clan Chiefs, Cardinals ( well, the only two I know!), Bishops, Priests & Deacons, Subdeacons and not a few acolytes and doorkeepers! Plus a vast body of discerning laity. And there they admire the pictures and enjoy the music and, I hope, profit from the sermons.
But what they see is not the whole of St Clement’s worship. Much goes on unseen. There is a Mass every day, celebrated usually in the St John’s Chapel, a beautiful chapel at the back of the church, quite separate from the rest of the church. Evensong is said there every evening too. Some people come nearly every day; others just once a week, but these quiet services are very much appreciated by many.
St John’s Chapel was named this, I think, by the Cowley Fathers, who ran the parish for ten years or so, and whose order is the Society of St John the Evangelist. It has a fine statue of St John above its door. It also contains a baroque statue of Our Lady, before which the Rosary is recited every Sunday, and a beautifully carved wooden statue of King Charles the Martyr. The pricket stands before these twos shrines are never without votive candles burning. The altar has a haunting triptych of the Crucifixion with St Clement and St Catherine, our Patrons, by the well-known liturgical artist Davis D’Ambly.
Also unseen is the quiet work of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the hearing of confessions. In a church like St Clement’s we get not only parishioners, but also people from all over, coming to confession, quietly month by month or sometimes only year by year (and never, these days, week by week, as used to be the habit) facing up to their sins before the priest and receiving through his ministry God’s loving forgiveness. As I said, confession is much less frequent than it once was, so the fact that we have five confessionals is a bit de trop! But I intend to have a big Penitential Service next Lent, and then we shall see all five in use at once and, indeed, maybe several other “confession stations” round the church.
And not only the clergy have a quiet ministry in St Clement’s. The church stands open every day, and our sexton, who has been in that post for 25 years, is always on hand to welcome people and either show them around or let them light votive candles at the shrines. Anthony would never think of this as a “ministry” but that is what it is – service to the people of God.
This kind of worship and ministry can never appear on our web site, but it upholds all that St Clement’s means to the thousands who view our web site and who count themselves friends of our church.