Christian journey

I was nine years old when I changed primary school. About four years earlier we had moved house and applied to move school, but there was quite a long wait for a space. And so, in Year Five (as it is now), my new teacher was Fr Mortiboys, also perpetual curate at All Saints’ Church. I am not sure now whether it was him or Mrs Cummins, the dinner lady, who asked whether I would like to become an altar server. I didn’t know what it was, so said yes (obviously). After some tricky discussions with my parents it was eventually agreed that my sister and I would start attending All Saints’, and Mrs Cummins would give us a lift.

One day my year at school were asked if anyone would like to be confirmed. I realised that, if preparing for confirmation, I could miss the Thursday morning assembly and attend Mass instead – which I did, and was confirmed by +Eric Wild.

After Stuart’s Confirmation by +Eric Wild

At church I was hooked! All Saints’ was in the Anglo-Catholic tradition in the Church of England, with a High Mass (priest, deacon, and sub-deacon) or concelebrated Mass every Sunday. There was a serving team regularly comprising of 12 or so servers, each allocated a job – Master of Ceremonies, thurifer, boat boy (no girl servers at that point), acolytes, crucifer, lavabo bowl holder, and so on. At big feasts there would be 6 servers lined up along the altar rail for the Eucharistic Prayer with candles which would be raised as the bread and wine were elevated, and the thurifer would be there in the middle censing.

A typical Sunday Mass at All Saints’ Reading in my childhood

Once a year we would go up to London as the altar servers for the Additional Curates’ Society festival Mass at St Alban’s High Holborn, before it moved to St Augustine’s Kilburn. We would go to the Glastonbury Pilgrimage each year, sometimes just to join the procession with our banners, sometimes to be the lead servers at Mass or Evensong. Every year there was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which started my devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As the years passed I learnt to be thurifer, and even MC. Occasionally I would even be trusted to sub-deacon the Mass. Some Sunday evenings I would attend and serve at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and Evensong.

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