Last week in England, September 17 -27
Well, my month in the UK is almost over and I am able to say that I enjoyed it all enormously but I am longing to get back to Philadelphia! Although (or perhaps because) my life as a priest has taken me to many places, I have always enjoyed returning home after a holiday. So I will fly gladly from London to Philadelphia on Tuesday , September 30.
There will be regrets, of course, since I have so enjoyed meeting up with old friends in London this last week. I have been staying with Prebendary Bill Scott in his house which is beside the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, where he is Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen and Sub-Dean of the Chapel Royal. His home is very handy for two of my favourite clubs, the Carlton and the Oxford & Cambridge, so I have used them quite a lot to entertain friends to lunch or dinner.
On Sunday, I went to the High Mass at St Mary’s, Bourne St, where Fr Scott used to be Vicar. The Liturgy is quite similar to that of St Clement’s and has the advantage of the choir’s being in a gallery at the back where the organ console is also located, which means that the congregation have an uninterrupted view of the sanctuary and the altar. The Propers are sung in English rather than Latin and I enjoyed hearing the whole congregation singing the Asperges – also in English. The liturgy has been adapted so that the Asperges is the communal confession and the celebrant pronounces the absolution when he gets back from sprinkling the congregation. This is the only confession in the mass, since the private preparation has been omitted and there is no other confession in the middle of the mass. The preacher was Fr Stuart Leamie, who was one of the seminarians at Salisbury Theological College when I was on the faculty there, and I caught up with news of old friends from those days over a couple of pints at the Duke of Wellington, the pub favored by some of the St Mary’s congregation after mass, (though most have a glass of champagne first in the Presbytery library!).
The weather has continued to be fine and warm, so I have spent quite a lot of time just walking in the parks and streets of the city. Only once have I been to the theatre, though there are many tempting shows on, and that was to a tiny theatre in Vauxhall where a cast of four put on a highly amusing play to just thirty or forty of us. The theatre could have seated only about a hundred, I suppose, so it didn’t seem too empty. Fr Bill knows the routes of the buses intimately, so we got one from Vauxhall to Soho right after the play and finished the evening off in a very good restaurant there. Since I left London, the law has relaxed about drinking in public, and the streets outside every pub were mobbed, and since there is a pub every few yards in Soho, it was difficult to make any progress. But we got to the restaurant in the end and had an excellent meal.
I will be praying this weekend for my successor at St Clement’s, Fr Rick Alton, as he is instituted as Rector on Monday, September 29, the Feast of St Michael & All Angels. It is a lovely day to be commissioned for this work, as we are all called to be angels (the Greek “angeloi” just means messengers). We have a wonderful message to proclaim, and St Clement’s under Fr Alton’s leadership will continue the work of proclaiming the message of God’s love, especially to the poor and needy (and they can be millionaires as well as bums!) God bless Fr Rick and all who assist him in this wonderful work through St Clement’s in the years to come.
But the atmosphere was happy and friendly and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.