Hidden Windows of St Clement’s
St Clement’s has some wonderful stained-glass windows that used to be seen only by a select few – the servers!
We have two sacristies, each one chock-full of vestments (why is that a surprise to no one?) The back sacristy, which is beside the St John’s Chapel, had six windows, depicting the Corporal Works of Mercy. They are among the finest stained glass in the church, and I was always sorry that the whole congregation had almost no chance of ever seeing them. So one of the last things I proposed to the Vestry before I retired was to move these windows and have them cleaned and installed in the Anchor Room, a small hall used for coffee hours, child care and classes. This would mean that everyone would get to see them.
Well, I am happy to say that this has now been completed, and the six windows are visible every week. This is not only an important aesthetic matter, but also an inspiration for the development of St Clement’s Anglo-Catholic heritage. If there is one thing which the Tractarians and Ritualists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries stood for it was that the beauty of Catholic worship was idolatry if it was not the inspiration and guiding force in the Church’s carrying out of the commands of our Lord. I call these “The Inasmuches” because Jesus painted a picture of the judgement of God at the last day, listing what came to be called the Corporal Works of Mercy – the giving of food and drink and clothing to the needy, the visiting of the sick and those in prison, the taking in and shelter of the homeless – and portrayed his heavenly Father saying: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me”. In other words, the places we meet our God are hospitals and prisons, soup kitchens and refugee camps, hospices for the sick, hostels for the homeless.
It is only when the Church is present and active in all such places that she has any right (and any hope of success) to celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments. Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar summed it up memorably when he told the Anglo-Catholic Congress in London in 1923 “You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum”.
If I were more computer-competent I could show you some of these glorious windows here, but alas the photos are on my IPhone and I have no idea how to get them here. However, that may not be such a bad thing: far better you should come to St Clement’s and see them for yourselves. (Also, I will see if they can be put up on the St Clement’s web site by our splendidly competent webmaster).