I am not the most optimistic person in the world. So looking at the situation of the Church, I often despair that it will all come tumbling down. Reading stories like this one which tells of how the Archdiocese of Barcelona, Spain is combining parishes to form 48 new parishes down from 375 in 1950. When I read Ratzinger’s 1969 “prophecy,” originally a radio broadcast, now published in his Faith in the Future book, I tend to agree that the Church of the future will be much smaller institutionally.
Talking to seminarians I have sometimes posited that these young men might not always have a parish “plant” (to use the U.S. term) at their disposition. They may not have their own church, parish house, school, parish centre, and even a steady salary at their disposition. I have suggested that they might to get a regular job and welcome the local Christian community into a chapel in their homes on weekends.
Recently I read of just such a case in Scotland. Fr. Len Black, from Inverness, is a priest of the personal ordinariate for former Anglicans of Our Lady of Walsingham (which encompasses the whole island of Great Britain). He converted his garden shed into a chapel. His Ordinariate parish does not have a church building, they celebrate on Sundays in a local hospital chape. On weekdays he celebrates weekday Mass in this Oratory of St. Joseph in his garden. As his congregation grew, he gradually extended the oratory/shed. In an interview with the Tablet he explained:
I had a number of small statues of Saints and a large statue of Our Lady, St Mary, which took up residence in the Oratory and with the help of a good friend in Edinburgh I was able to find a splendid circular brass tabernacle, six brass candles and a crucifix, large statues of St Joseph, the Sacred Heart, the Infant of Prague and various other ecclesiastical items to adorn the chapel. I was also given gifts of a splendid Orthodox Icon of the Scottish Saints and another of Our Lady of Walsingham.
As the Ordinariate began to grow, I added a pavilion, a raised platform with a roof, between the shed and the garden pond to give an outside sheltered seating area. As numbers continued to grow I added clip on sides to give protection from the weather. Two years ago I decided to improve this by extending the already extended summer house. Again, costs were minimal, and now it is 14 feet long – eight feet longer than when it started.
Fr. Black’s tastes might not be exactly the same as my own, but I admire his creativity. I also think it might become more common in the future in other contexts. Finally, Fr. Black’s shed is in the running for the 2021 Cuprinol Shed of the Year, if any readers want to support him they can vote for his shed here.
Photographs courtesy of Fr. Len Black