Over the past century and a half, S Paul’s has been filled with great care and love. Some of the items are excellent examples of architectural church furniture – others, like the nave altar, are very simple but look beautiful when they are prepared for use.
Click the links below for a brief description of the main items in the church:
The font is used in the ceremony of HOLY BAPTISM. This is when a person becomes a Christian through the pouring-on of water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and is welcomed into the community of the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH. That is why the font is near the door, the entrance into the church building.
Paul teaches that when we are baptised we die with Christ, go into the tomb with Him [the reason fonts are usually made of stone], in order to share His Risen Life. Baptism [also known as ‘Christening’] is a decisive and thus very significant rite. To remind us of its importance the font is carefully decorated and has a large wooden canopy.
During Baptism God’s Holy Spirit is given. Look for the painted carving of the DOVE which is a symbol of the HOLY SPIRIT.
HOLY OILS are used in Baptism, one to signify God’s strength for Christian commitment, and the other as a sign of becoming Christ’s, expressed in the words of S. Paul as a member of a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart.
People are often baptised when they are still babies but it is never too late and adults, of any age, can receive this Sacrament too.
The altar is the holy table on which the PRIEST celebrates the central act of Christian worship, the MASS: the reason this church was built. In the Mass, also called the EUCHARIST (thanksgiving), the LORD’s SUPPER and HOLY COMMUNION, the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is re-presented, and the bread and wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood, to feed and sustain believers.
Upon the altar stand candles, to give it honour and to remind us that Christ is the ‘Light of the World’. We cover the altar with a beautiful coloured cloth called the frontal. The colours change with the different seasons of the Church’s year. This starts with Advent, the period before Christmas when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We pray to live better lives. Then the altar cloth is sombre purple.
On Christmas Day the altar frontal is a joyful white or even cloth of gold. We decorate the church with flowers and many candles too. The altar cloth is lifted up to show the Christmas crib which Saint Francis used to teach the faithful about the mystery of Christmas.
The Shrine of Saint Paul
This church is named after SAINT PAUL, who was an Apostle and a Martyr. An Apostle is one who is ‘sent’: his mission was to bring Gentiles to faith in Christ. Martyr means ‘witness’ and it was because of his teaching and unflinching faith in Christ that S. Paul was executed in the city of Rome. He holds the sword that a Roman soldier used to cut off his head.
The shrine is decorated with red cloth, the colour of the HOLY SPIRIT, which here stands for the blood the blood of the martyrs. A red light burns before the shrine to give honour and again, to denote his martyrdom.
Twice a year we remember Saint Paul with a festival. On 25th January we remember when Saint Paul became a Christian and on 29th June we remember when he was made a martyr.
At these times we decorate the church and have a special MASS with elaborate music. After the Mass we stay in church for a party, which is usually a splendid Lunch. This is a very old Christian tradition and is very popular.
This amazing Victorian Bible stand is made of brass and was built to hold a large Bible. It is large and decorated with angels to show how important the readings from the Bible are to us.
In other churches the lectern can be in the shape of an eagle. Our lectern was specially made for Saint Paul’s Church and is of extraordinary quality.
The Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God and comprises the Old Testament [the Jewish Bible] and the New Testament. It is the Church’s book and the Church was led by the Holy Spirit to know which books should be included and which not. The Bible is a vital part of the Church’s Holy Tradition.
The angel lectern at Saint Paul’s was made by John Hardman Powell in 1885 and was moved from the North side of the aisle to its present position in 1978 when the Nave altar was constructed. It represents S. John the Divine’s vision of the angels of the Apocalypse.
At every major service in the church the priest will preach a sermon from the pulpit, which is a high platform so that everybody can see him. There is a wooden canopy which helps to amplify the sound, although these days we also have a microphone, to make sure that everyone can hear the priest’s teaching.
During the sermon the priest tells the people in the church, the congregation, how to understand the readings we have heard from the bible. In the sermon the preacher seeks to help his hearers to apply the Bible’s timeless truth to everyday circumstances and challenges.
The pulpit was designed by the first architect of the church, Richard Cromwell Carpenter, in 1848 and stood in front of the first pillar on the South side of the aisle. It was not completed until 1960 when the tester [canopy] was added.
The Rood Screen
This fine, carved and painted wooden screen separates the main part of the church from the CHANCEL, where the priests used to go to the High Altar. Today the main Sunday MASS is sung from the CENTRAL ALTAR, and only the choir sits in the seat behind the screen.
In ancient tradition the chancel represented Heaven, as the altar is the place where heaven and earth meet.
The ROOD is the large carved cross above the screen. There is a statue of Jesus on this cross, to remind us of his death. On either side are two statues, one of his Mother, Mary, and the other of Saint John, the disciple he loved most. The Rood, so placed, reminds us that we must pass through the cross to glory, following Christ.
Along the bottom of the screen are paintings of various saints, painted in an old-fashioned manner called the Gothic style. You can see similar paintings in the many beautiful stained glass windows. In the middle ages, when most people couldn’t read, these pictures helped to remind the faithful people of the stories of the saints and of how brave they were during times when it was deadly dangerous to be a Christian.
The Rood screen was part of R.C. Carpenter’s original design for the church in 1849. The Rood Cross and the figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and S. John were designed by G.F. Bodley in 1863 but not completed until 1910.
The Pascal Candle
Jesus said he was the light of the world, showing people the best way to live. This Pascal, or Easter, Candle is extra large because it shines as the Light of Christ, and is a symbol of Christ’s victory over death and sin, which Christians share in Baptism. It is set up on a very large elaborate candle stick to show how important it is.
Each Easter it is lit at the start of the Easter Vigil, the first service of the Festival of Easter.
The letters on the candle are Greek:
alpha, the first letter A in the Greek alphabet and omega, the last letter, represent the beginning and the end of time.
Chi (ch) and Rho (R) the first two letters of CHRist
These three letters are a Greek abbreviation of the name of JESUS.
Shrine of Our Lady
This beautiful statue, in the French style, is the focus of our prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Honoured as ‘Mother of God’, she first heard God’s word and kept it before she bore Him in her womb. Mary is an example of how all Christians should be: humble, obedient, faithful, and trusting in God. She was given by Jesus from the cross to be a mother to all his followers, and so is also known as ‘Mother of the Church’.
At festive times during the year, the statue is adorned with a golden rose, a lace veil and a golden crown, to show Mary as the ‘Queen of Heaven’.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death.
Shrine of the Good Shepherd
This shrine directs our prayers towards Jesus the Good Shepherd who knows his flock as they know him. He lays down his life for his flock.
You can see that he has rescued the lost sheep, for which he rejoices. Jesus calls us to repentance, and no-one is beyond being reached by His Love, to be ‘ransomed, healed, restored’.
Sheep have always symbolized the people of the church.
The Calvary and Stations of the Cross
This sombre shrine directs our thoughts and prayers towards the Crucifixion of Jesus. The crucifix reveals God’s love for humanity – nothing is held back, all is given. For Christians the cross was a battleground between good and evil, and on Easter Sunday we see that, despite the appearance of Good Friday, Christ has won and Christians, as His followers, share in His victory and the hope of glory.
If you look around the walls of the church you will see a series of carved images showing the main events of the last day of the life of Jesus, from his trials to his death on the cross and his burial. These help the faithful to concentrate on their prayers, especially during Lent, the period of forty days before the great festival of Easter, when we remember that Jesus rose from the dead.
All these Stations of the Cross are displayed on a separate page: Stations of the Cross.
The word means ‘tent’. It is in the tabernacle [the veiled safe], kept on the high altar, that the Sacramental Body of Jesus Christ [the consecrated wafer] is kept for the needs of the sick and dying, and as a focus of prayer. It is the most holy place in the church.
Christ said that he is the Bread of Life, and it is in the Holy Communion of His Body and Blood that Christians are fed, strengthened and kept in Eternal Life. Holy Communion is a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet.
A white light perpetually burns before the Blessed Sacrament indicating the reality of Christ’s Presence.
The Tabernacles are covered with ornate veils in the colours of the season, like the altar frontals. The Tabernacle on the High Altar is gilded and decorated with semi-precious stones.
Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
This image of Mary with her Divine Son reminds us of her appearance to the Lady of the Manor in a remote Norfolk village in the 11th century. The replica of the Holy House at Nazareth at Walsingham became one of the most esteemed and visited shrines of medieval Europe.
Destroyed at the Reformation it was restored in the early part of the 20th century by Father Alfred Hope Patten, SSC, Vicar of Walsingham, who as a boy learned much about Anglo-Catholicism from his worship at Brighton churches of this tradition.
There is a library at the shrine in remembrance of Father John Milburn, vicar of S Paul’s 1964-1982.
The image of Our Lady of Walsingham is a modern version, 1988, of the reconstruction commissioned by Fr. Hope Patten.
Sanctuary Lamps, Votum Lights & Votive Candles
Hanging lamps and votum [in coloured glass] lights give honour and dignity, whether to the Blessed Sacrament [white], Our Lady [blue] or to martyrs and other saints [red].
Votive candles, lit at a shrine, symbolise the prayer we offer, and are a powerful reminder of Christ’s light in what is sometimes the darkness of this world, and they give encouragement that others have prayed here, too.
At the shrine of a saint it is customary to ask the saint – one of our friends in heaven – to pray for the person or cause for whom or which we have lit the candle, and for ourselves.
Holy Water Stoup
As they come into the church, many Christians like to dip their fingers into the holy water and make a sign of the cross over their bodies to remind them of their baptism, the beginning of their Christian journey. Similarly, when leaving church, the sign of the cross can be made with the holy water as we ask God to bless us and keep us.
Reflecting upon the Gospel, a Christian is called upon to examine his or her conscience, to repent [‘turn around’] of sin and receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and a fresh start.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation [Confession] is a means of so doing in the presence of a priest who has been given authority at his ordination to forgive sins in God’s name.