A blessed and happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. Our services have all been wonderful so far- and the church is looking beautiful thanks to the hard work of those who spent yesterday morning cleaning, arranging and erecting flowers and trees. Oh come let us adore him!


Today the image of the Sacred Heart was moved into the chapel of the Sacred Heart- for rather obvious reasons of logic. It looks really good with the eyes of Christ leading us to gaze on the wonderful reredos. This change obviously leaves a gap in the main sanctuary and so, I am delighted to announce, we have a precious gift to reveal just in time for Christmas. A wonderful statue of St. Joseph holding the Christ child.

This change is good for several reasons. Not only does it allow the Sacred Heart chapel to contain the Sacred Heart statue but the darker colours on the clothing of St. Joseph will allow us to soften the colour on the back wall at a later date. It also brings the Holy Family together around the High Altar- with Jesus flanked by St. Joseph and the blessed Virgin. What better news could we have as Christmas approaches than the arrival of the Christ child in Pembury. Oh come let us adore him! Do click on the pictures to enlarge them.

A biretta tip to Fr. Gerard Hatton who tipped me off about the availability of this image at a bargain price. It is always wonderful beautifying space to  the glory of God and the transformation of our parish these last few years has been so encouraging to witness.

Christmas is a busy but glorious time at Saint Anselm’s. Do pop along to any of the following. We would love to see you.


 9am-12pm – Getting ready…

From 9am till 12pm clergy are available for confession.

And whilst the priests help clean souls- the laity get to work cleaning and decorating the church!  The trees will be put up and adorned with lights and baubles, flowers arranged, the crib filled with characters, brass and pews polished. Carols will be playing- pop in for a few minutes or the whole morning.

3pm – Crib Service

The Crib Service is geared towards Primary School children, though everyone is welcome to attend. We sing carols, use a little magic to blow the candles on the tree and process to the crib in candlelight. The main billing is the Nativity story enacted by  children. If a child wishes to take part we simply ask that they arrive at 2pm for rehearsal. Older children and teenagers act as narrators.

5pm – Vigil Mass

Christmas is anticipated in the Vigil Mass which counts as making your Christmas communion. It is especially suitable for young children, the elderly and any others who are unable to stay up till midnight. Carols replace hymns and Mass ends with a visit to the crib.


The jewel in the crown of the festive liturgical season is Midnight Mass. All the stops are pulled out – we rejoice in tradition in this parish- as we gather in the darkness to proclaim the birth of Jesus the light of the world. After Mass we visit the crib which is blessed with incense and holy water. After worship we toast the Lord’s birth with a glass of fizz. Worth staying up for!


On Christmas Morning we have a said 8am Mass of the Dawn for early birds and those tasked with cooking Christmas lunch! We then have our main Christmas morning Mass at 10am. Children are asked to bring a present to unwrap and, due to my generosity, there is usually something really tasteful for Fr. Nicholas. This Mass also ends with a little fizz…

When one of our long standing parishioners, Simon, won the ice-skating prize in the Autumn raffle few thought he would himself take to the ice. But here is photographic proof that he did just that, accompanied by his delighted grandchildren, at the Tunbridge Wells ice rink last week! Though he looks a little conservative in his poise here I am sure he soon launched into daring twirls and pirouettes to the delight of his watching family.

Thank you to all who donated prizes to the Autumn raffle which raised over £600 for our parish funds. There were so many lovely prizes and lots of winners.

St. Augustine’s Primary school are appealing to our local Catholic churches for help. They are looking for parents, grandparents or volunteers who might spare some time, on a regular basis, to help deliver a specific lunch time or after school club or else to assist in class with children’s reading. They believe that utilising members of local congregations will help strengthen the links between church and school. As you can see I have three reasons for hoping good people are found!

If you are interested then let me know and I shall pass your details onto the Head teacher. It goes without saying that volunteers will be subject to a thorough and enhanced DBS check. It would be lovely if members of our congregation were involved.

This coming Sunday we have our service of 9 lessons and carols in church. It begins at 6:30pm and ends with mulled wine and minced pies. Do support this event and bring friends and family along as well.

It saddens me that one or two of the clergy within the Ordinariate have started slating the Divine Worship Missal on social media. Partly because in-fighting will damage any emerging movement in the church. Partly because the charges are entirely unwarranted. And partly because this is an indication, I think, that not all ordinariate clergy are on the same page. Allow me to flesh these three points out in a little more detail.

But first two points need to be made. Firstly there is not a major rebellion against Ordinariate liturgy occurring at present. Most groups are taking to it well and so I am speaking of a minority. Secondly those who are not enamoured with the new liturgy are good priests, and friends of mine, who are entitled to their view. I respect that they have reached different conclusions to me and they remain at liberty to disagree with what follows and come back at it. That is what healthy people do. They debate in love and learn by such debate. I am attacking ideas here not people.

The danger of infighting

Firstly the danger of infighting. This needs little explanation in terms of the damage it can do. By all means let us debate but we need to ensure this does not descend into unhopeful negativity. For if the Ordinariate does not pull together it will fall apart. After all it already faces multiple challenges; a lack of enthusiasm and support from certain Catholic bishops, chronic under funding, hostility from Anglo-Catholics, struggles in terms of establishing a functional national leadership and no buildings or churches of our own.

The charges are unwarranted 

Divine Worship aims to bring more reverence, beauty and majesty to the Mass. It was put together to be a more faithful interpretation of the desires of the Second Vatican Council. A mass in the vernacular but with roots in the extraordinary form. Inevitably people will experience it differently; depending on how and where it is done and their subjective taste regarding liturgy.

So it might not be your bag but I refute the suggestion it doesn’t work. Here in Pembury we have used it, for over a year, at our principal Mass on Sunday, in the week and on certain feast days. And the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Indeed some cradle diocesan Catholics have been amongst its greatest supporters. It works. It can be done with dignity, beauty and solemnity. It can and does lead souls closer to God. So please respect this before lashing out.

I was, however, sceptical about establishing it. I thought people might struggle because it is different. But it proved the easiest transition I have managed. Even the detractors (we have one or two) could see that our being an ordinariate group necessitates  its use. If we don’t adopt it then who will? What is the point of an Ordinariate liturgy if it is not being used in the larger Ordinariate settings?!

Yet, surprisingly, Divine Worship was not mandated by Rome. Our clergy have been granted the liberty to use or neglect it. And situations will dictate. In small groups, where the majority are diocesan members of a certain hue, one might understand a pastoral decision to rely solely on Novus Ordo. But I would challenge such a decision in larger settings. It might be legal but is it prudent? If all we offer is Novus Ordo done well- so what? How are we different to any decent parish like St. Patrick’s Soho Square? Why not simply join a diocese? And whilst our patrimony is broader than one particular liturgy- that liturgy, if done well, is such an effective vehicle for the broader aspects of our patrimony to flourish that it seems wrongheaded to simply dismiss it.

An anecdote highlights this point. Last Sunday I had to console a crestfallen parishioner who had taken a friend to Warwick Street in London, enthusing all the way about how wonderful and dignified Ordinarite Mass would be. But when they got there it was Low Mass, according to Novus Ordo, with priest facing West. “Father, I might as well have gone to St. Augustine’s, Tunbridge Wells.” Quite. Now there is nothing wrong with Novus Ordo. Nor with St. Augustine’s Tunbridge Wells. Nor did the priest do anything wrong in opting for the Novus Ordo. Yet this felt like an own goal. Because people traveled in expectation and were left disappointed. Surely the central Ordinariate Church in London- of all churches- should solely be offering worship according to the Ordinariate Missal?

NB: to be fair to Warwick Street they do use Divine Worship much of the time.

Why is there hostility? 

Why are a minority of clergy not embracing the Ordinariate liturgy? The reasons will be various. But here are the ones I discern:

1) There are those who spent so long as Anglicans ‘trying to be Catholic’ that they came to delight only in the Roman Rite. Anything hinting at Anglican patrimony was automatically iffy and suspicious. Thus the Divine Worship experience does not speak to them of the ancient English Spirituality of pre-reformation days (as it should) it just stinks of protestantism. The rose tinted spectacles focused only on Rome and never on England remain firmly on their noses. Meaning they carry baggage with them in terms of devotional life. This explains why the only people I meet strongly opposed to Divine Worship are current or ex-Anglicans, while Cradle Catholics tend to enthuse about it.

Some of these need help to better grasp the vision. Others only ever wanted to become Novus Ordo Catholics and the Ordinariate was a convenient way of doing it. Now safely on the banks of the Tiber they just want to go native. They have zero interest in what we are about. Perhaps we should honour their consciences and release them to the diocese? For how can they help us establish our goals if totally opposed to the liturgical life which Rome herself has gifted us?

Then there are those who see merit in using Divine Worship but are afraid it will not be well received. Perhaps they lead congregations in which knives will come out if they push it. Perhaps they are only assistant priests in large diocesan settings and therefore a minority voice. Here we must rescue individuals by securing our own buildings. For whilst our clergy have a duty to work within and alongside the diocese, if the ordinate is to succeed, they cannot be diocesan workers first and ordinariate clergy second. And the bishops of England and Wales- and congregations who benefit from our priests, need understand that respect and gain is a two way street. Respect needs be shown to our liturgical life.

Finally there are those in tune with the Ordinariate mission but who, themselves, are minimalists where liturgy is concerned. Having been formed in the seventies and eighties they tend towards low church worship. And that means they will ever prefer the simplicity of Novus Ordo over the majesty of Divine Worship. These might be encouraged to help the Ordinariate by taking the St. Anselm’s approach. Which is to say do both! A little compromise in other words. But please let us not reject it out of hand. For it really can be done well and prove effective.


I am passionate about Divine Worship. If done well it brings beauty and solemnity to worship and a distinctive English spirituality. Indeed it is the most obvious thing that can make the Ordinariate distinctive and fit for purpose. Yet I respect the fact that others have not warmed to it and prefer the Novus Ordo. To them I would simply say this. Would it not be better to keep such dissatisfaction to yourself and quietly get on with celebrating Mass according to the Novus Ordo? Nobody forces you to use it and any public raging against it only hurts those trying to make it work and get it off the ground whilst delighting our detractors. Sometimes silence is golden.

It was an action packed day in the parish yesterday as we anticipated the Christmas season in various ways in order to benefit the community. It began with the annual over 60’s pre-Christmas lunch, held for the first time in our new hall. Last year the lack of suitable kitchen meant we had to hold it in the Scout Hut! But this year the new kitchen was complete enough to rustle up turkey and all the trimmings for all. It is going to be a wonderful space when painted and finished. Here we see Sue, who masterminds the cooking each year, showing off the new ovens!

After the lunch there was barely time to recover before we were summoned to carol singing at Tesco alongside friends from the Anglican and Baptist church. We sang for an hour and raised money for Pepenbury, the local home for people with severe learning difficulties and handicaps. It was notable how many smiles we raised as we sang with gusto and offered shoppers a mince pie and season’s greetings.

Having sung ourselves almost hoarse for an hour we then regrouped at Hazledene House, a local nursing home which houses many people with dementia. It was a very rewarding experience as faces lit up and the residents began to join in thanks to music and words firmly etched even into fractured memories. A few carols and a prayer on each floor- and a visit to one room- and we were done.

What a busy day but what a worthwhile one. A few of us then retired to the Black Horse for well deserved respite. And now it is time for the Rose Vestments and Gaudate as we return to our Advent celebrations.

The beautification of the side chapel at St. Anselm’s, which we have dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has been completed. And what a transformation we have witnessed.  The wall having been plastered and painted and the new reredos placed over the altar. And, not shown in the picture above, a new curtain for the confessional has been lovingly made by some members of the congregation. Do click on the images to see enlarged versions.

The magnificent centre piece of this newly restored chapel is a reredos, donated to us from a parish in Surrey, dated 1900 and the creation of a member of the Arts and Crafts Movement: C. R. Ashbee.

The reredos is pictured in Alan Crawford’s book ‘C. R Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist” where he writes the following:

(He created) A reredos…for St. Stephen’s Shottermill, in Surrey, in 1900. When it is open, this reredos reveals faintly Gothic cusping, and sparse vibrant figures carved in decorative low relief by Edward G. Bramwell; but its special feature is that Ashbee designed each of the panels to be about seven inches deep, so that when it is closed it looks like a big box, as his cabinets did, and it is held together by his usual massive hinges. If Ashbee had had a good deal of church work to do, this kind of treatment might have been interestingly developed; but as things turned out these were isolated examples.” 

I am indebted to the parish of Shottermill for having bequeathed such a magnificent gift and to the priest friend, a skilled seeker of ecclesiastical furniture,  who put me in touch with them. The former parish no longer need it having decided to turn a chapel into cafe space for missional work. I am also indebted to Pat who spent every evening this past week painting the church to ready it for Christmas. What a labour of love! And to the Hoare family for renovating the confessional curtain. How wonderful to witness continued progress in our parish.