Some Thoughts and Memories.
Fr John McGlashan
St Francis Church is the "hidden gem" of British Liberal Catholicism, tucked away as it is amongst the gardens and woodlands of Tekels Park in Surrey. The architecture of St Francis is unspectacular but it is vaguely arts and crafts in style… white wall, steeply pitched roof, beams and exposed brickwork and lead lighted windows. Yet for all its simplicity St Francis is a church of great character and much loved by Liberal Catholics from all over the world.
Its dignified high altar, with its veiled tabernacle, where the Sacrament is reserved on Sundays and during all service times, and its six tall candles, is the working hub of the church and it has always been a delight to celebrate there, catching glimpses of the outside gardens and trees in one's peripheral vision. Nature always seemed to be an integral part of worship at St Francis, and rightly so!
The congregations have never been large, except for special events, but there has always been a faithful core of worshippers who have contributed to building up the building's prayerful atmosphere. And it is this atmosphere of peace and devotion that has perhaps been the especial attraction of St Francis for many people.
The annual summer family camps at Tekels Park have always been an important feature in the life of St Francis. Every August, families, with children of all ages, singles and couples live under canvas for a week at the nearby campsite; and St Francis Church becomes the focus of their daily worship and praise. The morning office of Prime is said each morning in the Lady Chapel followed by the Eucharist later in the day. This may take the form of the traditional Liberal Catholic Mass or some form of experimental rite i.e. Mass in the Round (see photo above), or an Indian Rite (sitting on the floor) Eucharist. The night office of Compline is said at the campsite, sometimes around the campfire.
Church Campers after Mass
It was my great privilege to have served St Francis and its people as Priest-in-Charge for about twenty-five years and I loved every minute of it. I maintain my contact with St Francis through the summer camps, for which I remain Chaplain; and celebrating the camp Eucharists each day is always a delight. I pray that this unique and lovely church may become a centre of worship and unity for all those who call themselves Liberal Catholics.