Margaret & John waiting to greet the Bishop
In blazing sunshine the Bishop stood for almost two hours, speaking to everyone and taking a personal interest in all of us. The Parish had really gone to town to make us welcome - we even left Church in a shower of confetti.
St Bede's is on a large site which includes a primary school. With ample parking and very pleasant indoor spaces it provides the sort of facilities which it would be hard to match at the Cathedral - beside which it is more accessible than Portsmouth for large parts of the Diocese. You cannot miss the building ; a great Pyramid or Ziggurat. It has in it features you will either love or loathe. There is a (to my mind) fine crucifix - I have seen other work by the same sculptor in Winchester Cathedral, and in the Bishop of Winchester's chapel at Wolvesey. Some of the parishioners told me I should see the Blessed Sacrament Chapel before I left. The Sacrament House is a metal container set in the middle of an arrangement of metal leaves. They tell me it represents the burning bush.
The blessed Sacrament Perhaps it would grow on one; I found it a bit idiosyncratic. There is also a constantly running font, which is fine in principle, but I'm not sure Bless how practical it might be - at least though it is situated near the entrance, which is far better than having (as in one nameless Catholic church) a blow-up children's paddling pool in front of the sanctuary. But enough quibbling, today was wonderful, and it was good that there were so many children and grandchildren of the anniversary couples sharing the day with them. We are so fortunate to have our Bournemouth Mission in Bishop Philip's diocese. He goes out of his way to be inclusive towards us Johnny-come-latelies of the Ordinariate. I think one or two in Church today were a bit mystified to see a clerical collar among the worshippers - some, I know, supposed I was a Deacon. Another time I should have a placard with "Reformed Ex-Anglican" on my back. Many though already know something about us (there are five Ordinariate Groups which meet and worship in Portsmouth Diocese) and even when people have only vaguely heard of us they are invariably welcoming.
The Bishop began his homily with a very funny and very un-PC story about a dead mother-in law... (which I will use another time) but went on to give us good advice direct from St Paul (bear with one another - always be thankful - forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins). He spoke about how currently Parliament is "attempting the impossible; to redefine the natural institution of marriage". He asked where this might lead - Polygamous marriage? Designer babies? Unions with several partners? - "As Catholics we must hold fast to the full truth about being human, revealed in Christ, and we must do our best to communicate that truth with real joy and conviction. For the Church's vision of sexuality, marriage and family life is splendid ... and you are witnesses to that."
Today's celebration will certainly have encouraged many in seeking to live out the fulness of our Christian Marriages.