On Thursday 4th October 2012 a group of enthusiasts met for the first of three talks, with an invitation to ‘look with fresh eyes’ at our beautiful church. I probably wasn’t alone in wondering what to expect; information on key architectural features; works of art or historical facts? We certainly had our awareness raised on all those accounts, but very much more.
Led by Fr. Bernard, we were taken on both a personal and a collective voyage, skilfully linking the history and features of our Church to our worship. Facilitated by appropriately timed prayer, silent contemplation and hymns, we had the opportunity to give thanks to those who had been inspired to build St. Margaret’s Church, and the people who have nurtured our own faith through Baptism and Confirmation, and who continue to encourage us on our own spiritual journey.
We gathered at the West End and paused to study the Baptistery and the Dedication stone to name but two of the focal points we see as we enter church. Of particular interest was Fr. Bernard’s explanation of the roof of the Nave, as a replica of an upturned ship, which indeed it is, Navis being the Latin root for ship. Do glance up and see what inspiring images this conjures.
At the top of the Nave, Fr. Bernard prompted us to consider the relevance of the very ‘spot’ where vows are made at Confirmation, Marriage, and where the final Act of Committal and Commendation takes place at the end of the Funeral Liturgy. The singing of the hymn ‘Oh Jesus I have promised’ was particularly poignant.
Before leaving the Nave, we were encouraged by Fr. Bernard to reflect on the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Her place in our devotions; candles and prayer; the Cross above the rood screen and the church bells, which interestingly were one of several gifts from the Sunday school in the early days of the Church. One was left pondering what a large and dynamic group they must have been.
As we gathered in the Chancel, we gazed on the magnificent East window, installed in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and recalled the recent installation of Fr. Philip as our Vicar. Praying for vocations to the Priesthood, we gave thanks for the service and sacrifice such a commitment entails.
We were promised hidden treasures, but also found hidden talent, as Fr. Bernard presented to both Fr. Philip and Christopher Rathbone our Musical Director, a copy of his painting ‘Icon’s of St. Margaret’s’ in appreciation of all they contribute to the life of the Church.
This is merely a flavour of the evening, which ended appropriately with the ancient order for night prayer, Compline.
Jane Sheldon and Val Banks