Daily Opening: Volunteers Meet for the First Time

On 25th March all the volunteers who will watch St. Augustine’s during the new opening hours met for a briefing session, get-together, and introductory tour. The new opening times are 10am – 4pm every day, which is a huge leap up from Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. For this a rota of 30 volunteers has been drawn up, and almost everyone on the list was able to come on Tuesday.
The group began by assembling in the nave where Fr. Marcus addressed the group. The group contained several people who had not had direct contact with St. Augustine’s before, and several people who, whilst helping at The Grange next door, have not been involved with St. Augustine’s opening before. Therefore Fr. Marcus informed everyone of the latest progress in the project at St. Augustine’s; he told them how important it is to open St. Augustine’s to visitors; the group were shown plans to understand the plans for St. Augustine’s as it develops.
There was some time in the Schoolroom for relaxation and for people to chat. Then Fr. Marcus gave another brief address, and John Coverdale affirmed that this is an exciting project that should engage with various communities, from the local people, to tourists, to pilgrims, to Pugin experts, and also international visitors.
After this a short tour was conducted by Fr. Marcus. He showed the impressive stained glass, the details of the St. Joseph and St. John chapels, the stained glass, various architectural features, and the special Pugin items used in the church. The Volunteers were impressed and interested, and, it being a sunny day, the stained glass looked particularly impressive.
A photo was taken in the Garth of the volunteers, all looking very cheery!
St. Augustine Ramsgate volunteers 2014-3

New Neighbours! Divine Retreat Centre UK opens in former St. Augustine’s Abbey

The site of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Ramsgate, (across the road from St. Augustine’s Church) has been bought by Vincentians from India, part of the Marymatha Province of the Vincentian Congregation, Angamaly, India, who plan to turn the former Abbey into a retreat centre.

The new project was inaugurated with a Bible Convention, culminating in a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Peter Smith at 3pm on Sunday 16th March. St. Augustine’s provided many of the liturgical items and vestments, as well as the serving team and choir, for the Mass which was held in a large marquee in the grounds of the Divine Retreat Centre UK.

It was a truly spectacular occasion, with approximately 2,000 people coming from across the country to the Mass – coachloads of people were parked on Royal Esplanade and more came in their own cars. The event had been advertised on the Vincentians’ own television channel – DivineTV. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Peter Smith, was concelebrated by Monsignor John Armitage (Vicar General, Brentwood), Rev. Dr. Paul Puthuva VC (Provincial Superior, Marymatha Province), Dom John Seddon and Dom Thomas Kolangaden of St. Augustine’s, Chilworth (formerly St. Augustine’s, Ramsgate), other Vincentian priests, and several local priests. Dom Benedict Austen, also of St. Augustine’s, Chilworth, attended too, making up the three monks representing the former custodians of this site.

The Mass began with a large procession, in which Dom John carried a candle, lit at St. Augustine’s Cross the night before, and it was solemnly given to the Archbishop who entrusted it to Fr. Paul Puthuva, symbolising the transfer of the site to the Vincentians. After the Mass there were various speeches by the clergy and by local dignitaries, and a traditional Indian lamp was lit. As the photos and videos show, the weather was perfect and one of the warmest days of the year so far.

Very nearly everyone – probably 2,000 people – visited St. Augustine’s Church that day. St. Augustine is an important figure for the Vincentians’ mission, as they seek to preach the Gospel in England just as St. Augustine did over 1,400 years ago. Therefore it is very good for them to be so close to the Shrine of St. Augustine, and they encouraged their pilgrims to make the pilgrimage across the road to St. Augustine’s Church. The candle stands were ablaze throughout the day and the site was full of people marvelling at the Stations of the Cross, in the various chapels, at the Relic of St. Augustine and in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a truly holy day.

The Vincentians are charismatic Catholics who have had great success in India. They are establishing their European base in Ramsgate as the basis of providing an evangelisation and retreat centre for the whole of the UK and Europe. St. Augustine’s is very pleased to have been able to help in such a groundbreaking occasion and hopes to have very good co-operation with our new neighbours into the future.

More photos of the occasion can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rcsouthwark/sets/72157642554566444/

Pugin Concerts 2014 – Thames Chamber Choir series finale

To mark the 202nd birthday of AWN Pugin, the celebrated architect of the Gothic revival in the 19th century who was born on 1 March 1812, the Friends of St. Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate organised a series of three concerts to take place during late February and March 2014. The stirring finale came on Saturday 15 March with the Thames Chamber Choir playing to a full and appreciative audience.

After a solemn entrance, they sang a marvellous plainsong Gloria, which was entirely appropriate for the magnificent setting of Pugin’s church and which set the mood for the whole evening.  The first half opened with O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria and afterwards featured works by Palestrina, Lotti, J.S. Bach, Taverner and Gabrielli.   It closed with a memorable musical setting of I give thee thanks O Lord, based on Psalm 138 and set to music by Andrew Campling, the choir’s musical director.

The interval itself provided further example of the choir’s versatility.  Having discovered that it was Fr. Marcus Holden’s birthday, he was treated by the choir to a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ which was doubtless more in tune than any previous version he had ever heard.

The second half opened with three motets by Anton Bruckner, followed by a beautiful musical setting of The Spirit of the Lord from Isaiah, again written by Andrew Campling.  Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen (Seven Magnificat Antiphons) by Arvo Part followed.  Almighty Father by Leonard Bernstein came after this, a work which Jacqueline Kennedy had asked him to compose for the opening in 1971 of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.  The evening closed, as it had started, with O Magnum Mysterium, this time written by Morten Lauridsen, a Grammy nominee of 1998, and this setting is now one of his most-performed works.  The audience left in uplifted mood.

The Thames Chamber Choir is a vibrant group of about twenty singers, who have performed together since 1999.  The choir’s repertoire is mainly drawn from Renaissance and twentieth century a cappella music, and they occasionally collaborate with orchestras and other artists for special projects.

They can be followed on Twitter @TCCLondon.


Thames Chamber Choir

Pugin Concerts 2014 – Victoria Consort at St. Augustine’s

The Victoria Consort performed a concert on Saturday 8th March of Passiontide music associated with Rome’s Sistine Chapel. The audience spilled from the nave into the south aisle; the choir performed in front of the altar.

The theme of the concert was to progress through the ceremonies of the Easter Triduum, in particular Good Friday. The Rector of St. Augustine’s, Fr. Marcus Holden, introduced each piece of music with sentences about the composer and a translation of the Latin words. As the Stabat Mater finished the choir rearranged themselves for Victoria’s Lamentations, associated with Tenebrae. Fr. Marcus explained that traditionally this is sung before the ‘banging of the books’: with the church in darkness the books would be banged to represent thunder and shaking of the earth at Jesus’ death. The music was haunting, and one could almost hear the weeping and sorrowing that it represents.

After more music, including Palestrina’s Adoramus Te Christe, the choir splitting in two – one part standing in the Lady Chapel, hidden from the audience in the nave, and the other part of the choir remaining at the altar. The music echoed down the south aisle from the Lady Chapel, joining the full volume of the main choir. Then Lotti’s Crucifixus was sung, which Fr. Marcus noted is almost visual in its representation of the Cross being raised higher and higher. Finally, Allegri’s Miserere crowned the evening with each top note hit perfectly.

Before the Miserere, Fr. Marcus thanked the Victoria Consort, who are well known at St. Augustine’s as they often provide music for Masses at the church. They will be singing a concert at the start of St. Augustine Week in Ramsgate on 25th May, as well as for St. Augustine Week Masses on 26th and 29th May. At the end of the Miserere, Victoria Consort left to enthusiastic applause.

The last of the Pugin Birthday Concerts 2014 will be this Saturday – 15th March – at 7.30pm, given by the Thames Chamber Choir. Tickets are £10 (£7.50 concessions).