St James' Spanish Place, in Marylebone, London, has more space devoted to it in Pevsner's 'London' (Vol 3: London NW) than even All Souls Langham Place, a few pages earlier. So it is an important building. But better than that, on Sunday evening it was the place to be. Crowds came from Ordinariates out in the shires, some form beyond Canterbury in the Southeast, from deepest Essex, and we took a contingent from Bournemouth (a three-hour ride in a mini-coach) to celebrate a glorious Evensong and Benediction, and listen to our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton.
He reminded us just how far we have come in such a short time. He promised even better things as more and more former Anglicans come into the Catholic Church through the Holy Father's inspired provision of Anglicanorum Coetibus.
One of the things we might have missed on leaving the Church of England was 'Forward in Faith'. That organisation enabled Anglican Catholics to meet (at the National Assembly, and in local groups) and make common cause. Now it looks as though this is being replaced for us by the Ordinariate. Last year's Walsingham Pilgrimage brought many of us together, and last night there were so many old friends to see.
We heard how well the Groups are going in Hemel Hempstead and in Deal, and what new things are starting in Croydon and Maidstone. There were so many former leaders of the Catholic movement in the Church of England; the one-time Master of SSC, Fr Christopher Colven, now proprietor of the church where we were worshipping; Fr Geoffrey Kirk, originator of Forward in Faith; Sister Wendy of the Famous Three; Francis Bown once a neighbour and colleague of mine in Hull, now a lay Catholic who is a regular worshipper at St James' — and so many others, who will I hope not be offended if I fail to mention them.
The Choir reminded us of some of the glories of the Anglican tradition: Parry's thrilling "I was Glad" for the introit, Bernard R The ose's Responses, Stanford's Mag & Nunc in C. The only complaint from my Group was that they wanted to sing more hymns to sing themselves — maybe an Office Hymn? But the hymn which the Ordinariate claims as its own, "Praise to the Holiest", sung to Somervell's great tune, was some compensation. After all, Cathedral Evensong is not a sing-along.
Our contingent from Bournemouth had spent a busy day; many had set off for Mass before 9am, and did not return home until near 11pm. We had been interviewed by the Editors of The Portal (now the official magazine of the Ordinariate of OLW) for the hour after Mass.
What a memorable day January 15th turned out to be. Now we look forward to the Ordinariate's Chrism Mass, our likely next big gathering (on April 2nd, we think). See you there.