A huge congregation gathered at St Clare's tonight to mark our anniversary and bless the statue of St Clare.
It's 40 years to the day since Bishop Foley came to bless the Foundation Stone of our church. That day, a great crowd of people assembled on the building site to take part in the event, and tonight a similarly impressive congregation was present for the blessing of our beautiful new statue of St Clare. It was wonderful to be able to welcome back Fr Michael Lakeland, who was Parish Priest here for more than half of the parish's life so far, from 1982 to 2008.
Starting in the church itself, we listened to a reading in which St Paul reminds us that we must always build on the foundation which has already been laid, that is, Jesus Christ. Immanuel and Ellie, Head Boy and Head Girl at St Clare's school, then shared with us some of the things they had learnt about St Clare and why she is so important to us.
It was wonderful that the children were able to share their love of St Clare with a packed church. Then we went to the narthex - as many of us as could fit in - to bless the statue.
Parishioners placed symbols in front of the statue, a sign of us bringing to St Clare those who need her prayers: a baptismal candle, representing all those who belong to the parish; the school log book, representing our primary school; the oil of the sick, representing our sick and housebound parishioners, and all those in hospital; a photograph of a Syrian family, representing all those we are helping in Syria and Iraq in partnership with Aid to the Church in Need; and finally, the box of November intentions - all the faithful departed who we pray for throughout this month. We asked St Clare to pray for these and for all our intentions, saying together a Litany of St Clare.
After the final blessing, the celebrations continued outside, with the annual fireworks display and barbecue organised by the Scouts. We thank them for their work. And a special word of thanks goes to all who helped to make the new statue possible, especially parishioner Rita Hunter, whose sponsored walk to Santiago raised a huge amount towards the cost. The statue is a very beautiful image of our patroness and will remind all who enter the church that St Clare, from heaven, watches over us and prays for us. Click on the gallery below to see more images of tonight's celebration.