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Opening of the first church

This is the article from the Central Somerset Gazette for Dec 1926

Historic Event at Glastonbury - R.C. Church After 387 Years

Abbot Whiting - Father F. Burdett

There is a wide gap between these two names in time and importance. It was on Nov 15th 1539, that the last Abbot of Glastonbury was martyred on Chalice Hill at the foot of the Tor, within view of the Abbey over which he had ruled too well that even the Commissioners charged to discover any faults with the place had to return disappointed from their quest, and that last a charge was formulated against the Abbot of robbing his own Abbey. On Sunday last, December 5th, 1926, Mass was again said in a church under the control of the Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishop for the first time since the Dissolution of the great Abbey, in the cradle of British Christianity. From time to time there have been services conducted in private chapels in the town, notably at that of monks who formerly occupied Chalice Well, and latterly at the private chapel of the sisters in St. Louis Convent, Magdalene Street. These, however, have not been recognised churches under the control of the Bishop.

The new church is only a temporary one till funds are available for the erection of a new building, the land for which is provided in the convent grounds. The fittings have been designed for the present church in such fashion that they can be transferred. One interesting point about these fittings is that they include a holy water stoup formerly, it is believed, in the Abbey. The pillar for this and those for the altar, with some other stone used at the altar end, also belonged to the Abbey, and had been for some years on the convent premises. Originally the new church was a stable attached to a private residence in Magdalene Street. After those premises were acquired for the convent the building, which was of a substantial character, was used as the laundry of the establishment. The main walls have been left standing, but the interior has been stripped and recased, the necessary lighting alterations have been carried out, and other internal structural renovations and adaptations made. It proves now a very convenient public chapel, with a large enclosed transept for the use of the community. A massive slab of oak forms the holy table of the altar, with the appropriate furniture, which is of a very suitable character. The candlesticks are of carved wood finished in crimson, black and gold. The draperies, veils, etc., are of, the four ecclesiastical colours, white, crimson, purple and green, with vestments for the officiating priest of similar materials and colouring, the whole of beautiful fabrics richly patterned and hand woven and worked. The the blessing of the church on Sunday Father Francis Burdett was vested in white with handsome cope of cloth of gold tissue, later assuming a chasuble of purple, with full set of vestment en suite. To return to the altar fittings, the riddel posts of the canopy and the altar rails are richly turned and carved in the style prevalent about the time the Abbey was in its glory, and Tudor stools have been provided for the sanctuary. Deep green stamped velvet is used for the altar, the canopy of which is of silk of the like shade. A large quantity of the finest linen has been provided for the use of the altar, and of the priest and attendants. The sanctuary lamp is an antique of solid silver. A beautiful statue of St. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord - for whom the church is named, after the original wattle church of St. Joseph of Arimathea - is on the was from the Tyrol, to be placed in the niche provided for it in the chapel walls.

The service on Sunday of blessing the church was carried out the resident priest, Father Francis Burdett, under the authority of the Bishop of the Diocese, who was himself unable to be present owing to illness. A procession was formed of the Sister, about thirty being present, and the children of the Convent of St. Louis, and members of the Catholic faith in the town and vicinity, with several visitors from a distance; Father Burdett attended by the crucifer and acolytes. This encompassed the outer area of the building singing, and first the outer walls, and at a later stage of the service the inner walls also, were aspersed with holy water. The ceremony of blessing having been completed, Mass was said, the Sisters providing the vocal and instrumental music of the services.

Addressing the congregation which crowded the new church, Father Burdett said that he was giving no sermon, but he could not let the occasion pass without making a few remarks to them. It was true he said, that there was a Catholic chapel at Chalice Well some years ago which belonged to a community which had now left there, and latterly the Sisters of St. Louis had allowed their chapel to be used for the people of the neighbourhood. But these were private chapels in private houses. Now, he thought he was right in saying, for the first time since the Reformation, since the destruction of the Abbey which made Glastonbury famous, which even in its ruin, decay, desolation and abandonment was still famous, they were able to meet in a Diocesan church, in a place which was subject to the Bishop of the Diocese, and which belonged to the Bishop and which was interested with a sort of permanence. Their claim, which he said had the highest support of practically every historian of repute, was that here in that building - first a stable and then a wash-house - there and there alone in Glastonbury was taught and would be taught the same faith, the same divine truth, which was taught for hundred of years in the Abbey opposite. The great majority of historians of repute, but not all, were bound to admit that what he said was true. They might say, some did say, that the church, the Roman catholic Church, the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church, descended from St. Peter, the church that alone possess the longest line in Europe, in the world, that great church taught wrong things, perhaps that it teaches wrong things, but they could not deny that the same things it taught at the Reformation it teaches to-day, and as it did in the first centuries after the Ascension of Our Lord. They taught what they believed to be the truth, that God was true and that there was only one true faith. They could not pick and choose. There was only one right faith, though there might be thousands of wrong. People might have good hearts but weak heads, but they had to stand by what they believed and knew to be the truth, though other went on living in blindness, weakness and ignorance. They taught with definite authority and voice, however much other people might dispute and dislike it. That voice came from Rome, and always had come from Rome. Here they had set up again a diocesan altar where the same mass would be said, the same sacraments administered as of old, the same truths proclaimed that were proclaimed at the time of the Reformation. He claimed that if Abbot Whiting, martyred and murdered Abbot Whiting, were alive to-day he would come to that place and that along in Glastonbury to worship, to teach and to utter his words of truth to the people who came to that church, and to offer up the mass which was the same to-day as when he lived here in Glastonbury; same as when given them by St. Peter. He expressed the hope that from that place, as from the stable where the incarnation took place of Our Lord, they might as that incarnation changed the whole world work a change in Glastonbury.

In the evening compline and benediction were held.

A regular series of public service have been arranged to be held in the new church. The whole cost of the church had been raised within a very little before last week.