Fr Ian writes:
This afternoon I attended a book launch at Manchester Cathedral. The book, None Will Remain: Five lost churches of Manchester, by Richard McEwan, records the history of five closed Anglo Catholic Churches, St Alban, Cheetwood, St Gabriel’s, Hulme, St John’s, Miles Platting, Our Lady and St Thomas, Gorton, and St Benedict, Ardwick.
The launch included a fascinating exhibition of Anglo Catholic memorabilia, including St Chrysostom’s white High Mass vestments, which originally came from St Benedict’s, Ardwick, and the candlesticks from Our Lady’s statue, the work of the Anglo Catholic furnishers, the Society of St Peter and St Paul.
Talks given at the launch by Mr McEwan and by Canon David Wyatt were both well informed and stimulating. The stories of all these churches is fascinating and the book is well worth reading. In very deprived areas priests and people worked hard, prayed hard, worshipped hard and together they created something beautiful for God. Their churches were places of holiness and prayer – sacred places for their communities.
Sadly, their particular witness is no more. In a challenging conclusion to his work Mr McEwan, remarks ‘This study .. is in the end, a story of decline, lack of fulfilment and defeat.’ Inevtiably, then, deep and significant questions arise: Why did these churches close? What action do their stories of pastoral care, worship and witness inspire today? How can existing churches more become ‘gates of heaven?’ How can the truths of living out an incarnational faith in the world, and celebrating a liturgy which embraces beauty, symbol and mystery, be ‘proclaimed afresh’ to our generation?