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.
On 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.
(from the Parish and Ordinariate websites)