MPB 125 – Major refurbishment plans for Most Precious Blood

The Church of the Most Precious Blood at The Borough, London Bridge, is marking another milestone in its long history. In 2017 it will be 125 years old – and parishioners have launched plans for a major restoration to celebrate.

The parish is a thriving one, noted for its street processions which are a feature of the local scene. Mass attendance has increased substantially over the past two years, and an extra weekend Mass has had to be added. Recent improvements to the church include a shrine to Blessed John Henry Newman, patron of the Ordinariate, and new glass doors at the main entrance, enabling passers-by to see in – and many drop in for prayer, to light a candle, or just to spend some quiet time.

19257966908_18e0c447da_o smallOn Sunday 5th July, at the special Mass of the Titular Feast of the Most Precious Blood celebrated by Mgr Keith Newton, an appeal was launched by churchwardens Christopher Smith and Bernadette Josiah which aims to raise £125,000 in each of the two years running up to the anniversary.  A total of £250,000 is needed to finish the work on the floor – underfloor heating was installed a year ago and all is now ready for the final limestone flooring to be placed over the tiles – to tackle the peeling paint on the walls, replace current electrical, lighting and sound systems, and refurbish the sanctuary. Special features of the church include a fine baldacchino over the high altar, and an arched sanctuary entrance bearing the words “Christus dilexit nos et lavit nos in sanguine suo”: Christ has redeemed us and washed us in his blood.  The final stage will be to rebuild the pipe organ in the West Gallery.

The aim is to raise the funds by 2017 and to complete the full restoration by then, marking the 125th anniversary. Despite its age, the church has never actually been dedicated – the traditional ceremony in which the altar is consecrated and the walls are anointed and crosses placed there to mark the building for its sacred use – and the aim is to have the full dedication ceremony as the highlight of the anniversary celebrations.

The Right Reverend Monsignor Keith Newton has kindly agreed to be co-patron of the appeal – to be known as “MPB 125” – along with The Most Reverend Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark.  Archbishop Smith placed the Parish in the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in January 2013.  Since then the Parish Priest, Fr Christopher Pearson, has led efforts to both grow the congregation and to raise funds to complete several projects, including the installation of underfloor heating, but he believes that the time has now come when the Parish must seek help from beyond the regular congregation to improve and repair the Grade II listed building.

Commenting on the need for the appeal Fr Pearson said, “The area around the Borough is rapidly developing and our congregation consists of a broad mix of both long-term local residents and people who have moved to the area more recently for work or study.  The Church is open all day and a steady stream of people use it as a place to pray or just find some peace and tranquility.  As a congregation, we have already raised and spent over £100,000 in the past two years on improving the facilities; to complete the restoration project we must now seek funding from other sources.

For more details download the special pdf flyer. You can also go to the parish website to find out more about the appeal and to make a donation here.

(from the Parish and Ordinariate websites)

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6 Responses to MPB 125 – Major refurbishment plans for Most Precious Blood

  1. John Ambs says:

    One can only hope and pray that part of the “restoration” is actually USING the beautiful high altar under the splendid baldacchino. Following the many liturgical writings of our dear Pope Benedict, MPB should ditch the cheap “peoples’ altar”. No need for it.

    • I don’t know if it is possible for the high altar to be free standing under the baldacchino and for the priest to walk around it and celebrate from both sides (cf. St. Peter’s or Westminster Cathedral) – that might be an ideal solution. But you are right that the nave altar seems not to be very inspiring. By the way, I didn’t notice Pope Benedict “ditching” any “people’s altars”. On the contrary he consecrated quite a few of them and always celebrated facing the people, except in his private chapel, where the architecture only permits “ad orientem”.

      David Murphy

      • Rev22:17 says:

        David,

        You wrote: I don’t know if it is possible for the high altar to be free standing under the baldacchino and for the priest to walk around it and celebrate from both sides (cf. St. Peter’s or Westminster Cathedral) – that might be an ideal solution. But you are right that the nave altar seems not to be very inspiring.

        It’s certainly possible for the high altar to be free standing. In this church, they would need tear out the existing high altar and replace it with a somewhat smaller high altar (narrower to provide room to walk around it, and perhaps somewhat less deep as well) situated a yard or so from rear wall of the sanctuary. Of course, they also would have to relocate the tabernacle.

        There’s a church in my area, IIRC build in the 1960’s, that was designed this way. They put the tabernacle in the wall behind the altar rather than on the altar itself, then set the altar a yard or so forward of the back wall of the sanctuary. The visual appearance not much different than that of an altar against the wall until the principal celebrant goes behind the altar rather than in front of it.

        Norm.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      John,

      One thing is certain: if they plan to dedicate the church (see my earlier comment below), what you call “the cheap ‘people’s altar'” will go away. The Rite of Dedication of a Church requires installation of a new altar, also dedicated during the rite, as a major constituting element.

      Of course, this does not answer the question of where the new altar will be. They could install either a new high altar or a new “peoples’ altar” to meet this requirement. Something tells me that you will be very torn about this: you probably don’t want to see the existing high altar ripped out, but you probably also don’t want to see a “peoples’ altar” in front of it.

      No, you can’t win.

      Norm.

  2. Rev22:17 says:

    David,

    You wrote: Despite its age, the church has never actually been consecrated – the traditional ceremony in which the walls are anointed and crosses placed there to mark the building for its sacred use – and the aim is to have the full consecration ceremony as the highlight of the anniversary celebrations.

    I presume, from your remark about anointing the walls, that you actually meant “dedicated” when you used the term “consecrated.” The Roman Pontifical actually provides two rites for the inauguration of a new church — the Rite of Dedication of a Church (often called “solemn dedication”) and Altar and the Rite of Blessing of a Church and Altar (often called “simple blessing”) — and the decision as to which to do rests with the diocesan bishop. Both rites claim the building as sacred space, but dedication is more serious: the anniversary of the dedication of a church becomes a “solemnity” in the proper calendar of the dedicated church (and, in the case of a cathedral church, a “feast” in the proper calendar of the respective diocese), whereas the anniversary of the blessing of a church receives no liturgical celebration. I’m not an expert on the canonical nuances, but my understanding is that it is also much easier to relegate a “blessed” church to non-sacred use than to relegate a “dedicated” church to non-sacred use. Thus, many bishops choose to “bless” parish churches rather than “dedicating” them because it facilitates realignment of parishes in response to demographic shifts. As it pertains to this comment, the Rite of Dedication of a Church includes consecration of the walls with chrism taken from the altar following its consecration and installation of small crosses with candles at their bases at the places of consecration, which usually number twelve in larger churches or four in smaller churches.

    Norm.

  3. John Ambs says:

    Ok…not going to get pulled into a “what did Benedict really do and say” argument. One major people’s altar he ditched: the one in the Sistine Chapel…and he certainly freed the ancient Mass of the Saints (Extraordinary Form) to now be said across the globe by many young, orthodox priests. I always thought the Ordinariate liturgy was meant to be offered ad orientem…but if the primary liturgy used at MPB is the Novus Ordo…well…

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