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A church in celebration

by Maurice Garvie

On 4th May 1894, sixteen priests from the diocese together with representatives from church associations, parishioners and dignitaries from the Harrow, including the Mayor of Harrow, accompanied by the 9th Middlesex RVC Brass Band witnessed the formal laying of the foundation stone at the Church of Our Lady & St Thomas of Canterbury, Harrow-on-the-Hill by Cardinal Vaughan, then-Archbishop of Westminster.

In 2017 the church’s current Parish Priest, Fr Guy Sawyer set out on a mission to mark in May 2019 the 125th anniversary of the laying of that foundation stone. He approached the parishioners and diocesan Art and Architecture Committee for their permission to redecorate the church inside and out, and to reorder the sanctuary. Permission was granted and in the autumn of 2018 work commenced on restoring sections of the church’s leaded roof, the external painting of the church and the installation of a new church boiler. Following on from that, lighting and sound engineers moved into the church as did decorators, stone masons and carpenters who immediately set about the re-ordering of the sanctuary and the restoration of the church interior.

On Friday, 24th May 2019, with the reordering of church sanctuary nearly complete, Bishop John Sherrington, together with Fr Guy Sawyer, Canon Brian O’Shea, Mgr Phelim Rowland, Canon Robert Plourde, Canon Michael Brockie, Canon Michael Munnelly and Mgr Vincent Brady, celebrated Mass and blessed the church’s new baptismal font and ambo. After the blessing, Bishop John processed to the back of the church where he blessed a newly-hung icon of St George, Patron Saint of England and of the Scout Movement, in memory of Bernard Brickell who founded the parish’s 17th scout group in 1924 and of Frederick Clifford and Lawrence Philpot who followed in his footsteps and who upheld, for many years, the great traditions of the Scout Movement. Their wives, Rosemary Clifford and Maureen Philpot attended the blessing.

On Sunday, 23rd June 2019 with the reordering of the sanctuary complete Cardinal Vincent consecrated the new altar into which he placed the relics of St Thomas of Canterbury and St Edmund of Canterbury, which were then immediately sealed into the altar.

After the consecration, the parish family gathered socially with the Cardinal; it was, ‘a church in celebration’. The church had been suitably enhanced for the benefit of all, both young and old, and for the greater glory of God, Our Father in heaven.

Photos: Lucy Baker