Monday, 8 February 2010

A church of the Traditional Anglican Communion

Much to my surprise, I received an invitation, quite late last Friday evening, to attend the patronal festival of St Agatha’s church, in Portsmouth. It was to take place on the following day. So I set the alarm clock for 6 a.m., and off we went soon after 8 for the long journey from Gloucestershire to the South Coast.

I thought you might be interested to read about the visit, because St Agatha’s is one of those Anglo-Catholic parishes which have received with joy the Holy Father’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus.

It was originally a Church of England parish, but is now a parish of the Traditional Anglican Church, which is a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion. Here are the details of the warm welcome the TAC has given to the Apostolic Constitution. And here is the fascinating history of St Agatha’s.

The church was built toward the end of the 19th century, to serve the crowded slums that originally surrounded it. But its parish was destroyed when the great seaport was bombed in World War II. For some years its beauty was hidden while it served the Royal Navy as a storage depot. Now, after all its adventures, and after having had two-thirds of its Lady Chapel altar sliced away, it finds itself alone but very prominent, on an island in the midst of a modern road system near the city’s Cascades shopping centre; and it appears to have gained a new lease of life.

It is a large and rather extraordinary church, built in the style of an early Christian basilica. While many of its treasures were dispersed – and some were destroyed - during its wilderness years, much of its splendour remained; and since it has been brought back into use as a church many beautiful and interesting objects have been brought in to adorn it.

The celebration we attended took the form of a fine and dignified Anglo-Catholic Solemn High Mass and procession. There was also the censing of the statue of St Agatha, and of the many side-altars. For music we had an organ, an orchestra, and much hearty singing of hymns.

A delicious buffet lunch followed, which was much appreciated after our early start, and re-charged us for the journey home. We were extremely tired at the end of the day, but I am very glad indeed to have experienced the occasion.

I hope and pray that if all progresses well – please God - it will not be long before this fine parish, with all its faith and goodness and devotion, will be fully united with us in the one flock, in the fullness of the Church.

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