Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Request to other NLM Readers from some of your fellow readers at Cambridge University

One of our Cambridge University readers emailed the NLM earlier this evening with a request for some input in reference to the Fisher House Catholic chaplaincy of that prestigious university.

Apparently the chaplaincy has been using a multi-purpose hall for the celebration of the liturgy and, as I understand it, there is some consideration for how they might improve upon the design, keeping in mind their particular circumstances -- which are difficult.

These readers, knowing the frequent re-design discussions that occur here on the NLM, have asked me to put the following forward to the NLM readership:

Call for Suggestions

"Fisher House is the home of the University of Cambridge Catholic Chaplaincy (UK). About 400 faithful, chiefly students and academics, regularly attend Sunday Masses here. There are more than ten converts a year, and some 15 alumni are currently training for priesthood or religious life. Much emphasis is given to the dignified celebration of the sacred liturgy: of the three term-time Sunday masses two are sung, one in Latin with the full Ordinary and Proper in Chant; occasionally the Extraordinary Form is used.

"For several decades, Sunday Masses were held in a multi-purpose hall that had to be rented out commercially during the week. Generous benefactions, including a personal gift of the Holy Father who lectured here as a Cardinal, now allow us to use this hall permanently as a church and thus to build a permanent sanctuary. Its main artistic feature will be a copy of Cimabue’s Crucifix in S. Domenico in Arrezzo, executed with period techniques in the Hamilton Kerr Institute, the University’s centre for the conservation of paintings.

"As church restorations have featured frequently in this blog, I should like to ask readers if they have any suggestions on how to transform this 1970s hall into a Catholic church.

"It is an approximately square, high, well-lit space with lower annexes to the W and the N side (in the latter the seating area is elevated by a few steps), and a diagonal cuts off the SE corner; currently the Sanctuary is placed in front of it.

"The new interior should be able to accommodate celebration of Mass in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary (the latter both versus populum or versus deum) Forms. As the space should still be used for occasional lectures or lunches, there should be a way of screening the Sanctuary off. The Blessed Sacrament will probably remain reserved in the neighbouring small chapel which is used for weekday masses. A main concern is the acoustic, which is in dire need of improvement (The music consists of chant, polyphony and, mostly traditional, hymns, both choirs have about 20 members, and there is a digital organ). As the hall is crowded on most Sundays, a Sanctuary should not take up too much space or should have moveable demarcations like rails, that can be adjusted to different needs.

"We would hope to raise funds for a refurbishment of the hall and dignified liturgical equipment (we would hope to buy a ‘second-hand’ stone altar), but larger constructional works are probably beyond our means.

"One suggestion currently discussed is to put a stone altar closer to the wall (either in the corner, where it is now, or in the centre of the S side), the crucifix above it, and to link those together with a suspended (dark red or white?) tester above the crucifix and a cloth in the same colour covering the back wall. In this arrangement, curtains attached to the tester could be used to close the sanctuary off, if and when necessary. But this is just one line of thinking. We should be curious about your ideas."

Here are the pictures they have sent. I have left them in thumbmail format so that you might click on them for a larger view. Please make your comments in the comments box.

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