ON MONDAY of last week, Mass was celebrated in the Anglican church of St Mary's, Chard, Somerset. This was the first time such a thing has happened for over 400 years.
The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the ordination of Fr James O'Brien, parish priest of the church of the English Martyrs, Chard. The anniversary Mass was said by Bishop Mervyn Alexander of Clifton.
It all came about because the Vicar of Chard, the Rev Basil Jenkins, had invited Fr O'Brien to St Mary's for the occasion. "It is for me a tremendous joy," Mr Jenkins said, "and a humbling privilege to welcome our Catholic friends back to the building in which their forefathers worshipped so long ago."
The vicar went on to explain that Fr O'Brien had expressed
some worry over his anniversry as to where he could "put all the guests as his extremely beautiful little Church was too small for such a service." "Imagine my delight," he added, "when Fr O'Brien and the Bishop accepted my invitation."
A truly friendly, warm and relaxed ecumenical occasion thus took place to everyone's unconcealed delight.
But that is not quite the end of the story. It so happens that, later in the same week, on June 10, another anniversary was being celebrated.
This was the 750th anniversary of the appointment of the very first Vicar of Chard. From now on the Christians of that charming town will always remember to pray for each other, having found, among each others' flocks, many new friends.