The main service on Sunday is the 10am Parish Mass. This is a Common Worship service celebrated with catholic ceremonial including vestments, bells, incense and a team of servers. There is a large choir led by a Director of Music. On the first Sunday of the month the service is accompanied by the junior choir and has a more informal feel to it.
The other Sunday service is Evening Prayer at 6pm. This always follows the Book of Common Prayer. On the first two Sundays of the month the service is held jointly with our neighbouring parish, All Saints’. On the first Sunday of the month this is a full Choral Evensong held at St Mary’s. On the second Sunday we join All Saints’ for a Sung Evensong. On the other Sundays the service is said.
At present there is only one regular weekday Mass, held on Tuesday morning. For services on weekdays, festivals and Holy Days, see the weekly Bulletin.
Visitors to St Mary’s will notice an ancient stairway in the north east corner of the nave. It appears to lead no-where. What was its purpose? In the middle ages, this stairway would have led to a rood loft which ran across the chancel arch. On this loft, monks would have watched the sanctuary, keeping it safe throughout the night and offering prayers as they did so. The name “rood loft” however, comes from the figures which would have sat on the loft, looking west down the nave. These consisted of Christ on the cross, the cross usually being flanked by St Mary and St John; His mother and the “beloved disciple”. The word “rood” itself is the Anglo-Saxon word for cross.
St Mary’s rood loft was, along with most others in England, destroyed at the reformation. Rood figures, however, were re-instated on the wall over the chancel arch in the late twentieth century. These fine figures came from the church of St Andrew, Plaistow in the London Borough of Newham. They were made by James Brooks between 1867 and 1870 and coloured by Randal Wells in the 1930s. When St Andrew’s was declared redundant in 1977, the figures were brought to St Mary’s. Placed high on the simple walls of St Mary’s, they are a powerful reminder of Christ’s love for us. As he uttered his last words, he thought not of his own sufferings but of those whom he loved. “Woman behold thy Son. Behold thy mother.” (John 19, 26-27)
The Dream of the Rood
The Dream of the Rood is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon poems, found in the tenth century Vercelli Book, although it is probably much earlier and possibly the oldest English poem known. It is the story of someone dreaming that he has a conversation with the wood (the rood) which became Christ’s Cross. Perhaps you will recall these words as you look at our beautiful figures.
Rood was I reared. I lifted a mighty King,
Lord of the heavens, dared not to bend.
With dark nails they drove me through:
on me those sores are seen,
I dared not scathe anyone.
They mocked us both, we two together.
All wet with blood I was,
poured out from that Man's side, after ghost he gave up.