The blog of Fr Ed Tomlinson, the Ordinariate priest who is in charge of the quasi parish of Pembury in Kent, is always worth reading. In his latest post he reports that five adults are to be confirmed next Sunday and that four teenagers will be confirmed later in the year.
This church used by this quasi parish is little more than a scout hut. It was built as a church hall in the 1960s with the intention of building the real church alongside. This never happened. Until the Ordinariate came into being, it was part of the parish of Paddock Wood with a single Sunday Mass. During the week the building was used for other purposes.
The Tonbridge Wells Ordinariate group is one of the largest in the country with two priests and seventy odd lay people converting in 2011. Others have joined since. Finding accommodation for this group was difficult because the existing Catholic Church in Tunbridge Wells already had four Sunday Masses, with no space for an additional Ordinariate one. The solution adopted was to hand over to the Ordinariate the Mass centre in Pembury, which is several miles away.
This is now shared between the diocesan congregation, formerly part of Paddock Wood parish, and the Ordinariate group, with Fr Tomlinson and his assistant being responsible for both. On Sundays, the 9.15am Mass is designed to serve the Ordinariate group and the 11am Mass the diocesan congregation, although I believe that there is some mixing of the two.
Having a resident priest has allowed weekday Masses and other devotions. It has also led to many more activities such as garden parties and a holiday camp for the younger people. Furthermore, the building is to be extended so that the main part can serve as a church full time.
Although the two communities seem to get on in harmony, the arrival of Fr Tomlinson did produce some changes that were not to the liking of everyone in the former congregation. For example, cassocks and cottas were reintroduced for the servers and they were expected to wear black shoes rather than trainers. A choir has been established and some of the folk music was dropped in favour of plainchant. Some of those who disliked the changes have migrated elsewhere, whereas others have been attracted.
Now that these changes have had time to settle, Fr Tomlinson has commented on the changes in the congregation, and I think that he is referring to the diocesan part. Firstly, he says that the average age is generally younger, with many more families attending the Masses.
Secondly, the congregation is more devotional. I presume that this means that they are more likely to pray, and less likely to talk amongst themselves.
I find the third comment particularly interesting. Apparently there are many more men, and they are now in the majority. Infact, I understand that two of the adult confirmands are men who were baptised as Catholics and are now returning to the Church after many years of absence.