The start of a new month saw the start of a new chapter in the life of St Clare's, as we opened our new narthex.
Bishop Michael Campbell joined us to bless the narthex on the evening of 1st February.
It was great to see the church packed for this joyful and memorable occasion.
The liturgy took the form of Vespers (Evening Prayer of the Church) with the psalms taken from the Office for the Dedication of a Church. For the Scripture Reading, St Clare's school shared the story of Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28:11-18), in which Jacob sees a ladder reaching between heaven and earth, and dedicates that place as a house of God. Children from school also sang the Magnificat, Mary's great song in praise of God and His gifts.
After the Magnificat, the Bishop and priests, with representatives of the parish and those who have worked on the building, went into the narthex itself. Once there, Fr Chris Loughran, whose initiative began this work back in 2012, said a prayer at the newly-restored foundation stone; his predecessor, Fr Michael Lakeland, then prayed on our behalf for all those whose generosity has made this building possible.
Then the Bishop blessed the narthex, followed by the new cross and newly-restored figure of Christ which hangs upon it, visible to all who pass by St Clare's; finally, he blessed the doors of the new building, which will be the gateway to this house of God.
At the end of the liturgy, people left through the narthex - for the great majority of those present, a first chance to set foot in this wonderful new space.
From the outside, the figure of Christ is once again displayed to the world from our church. The cross was only placed in position on the morning of the opening, so for most, it was the first time they had seen the Lord's image displayed behind the glass screen.
Afterwards, in the parish hall, an excellent spread of food generously provided by members of the parish, and a chance to catch up with some old friends! Thank you to all who contributed in any way to making the opening such a wonderful occasion. We have loads of great pictures - click on the gallery below to see more.