Thank you to all who contributed to our Christmas liturgy in many ways, visible and behind the scenes, and to all who took part in our worship on these great days celebrating the Saviour’s birth. A happy and peaceful new year to all. Fr Matthew
It is a great joy to be celebrating once more the feast of our Saviour’s birth. The picture of the crib, set up ready to receive the baby Jesus, is a sign of our Advent hope and longing for the Lord. The Advent wreath also represents our journey towards the great feast of Christmas, and the central white candle, lit on that day, is a reminder that we must endeavour to keep Christ at the centre of everything – our Christmas festivities, our Advent preparations, and indeed the whole of our family lives.
The past year has been a significant one for our parish, as we have marked in various ways the centenary of this parish community. The Centenary year celebrations began with a Mass on the anniversary of the opening of the first St Joseph’s Church on Sunnyside Gardens, 25th January, presided by Bishop Alan together with former assistant priest Fr Gerald Gostling. The choir of the Sacred Heart of Mary Girls School assisted the worship with a surprise piece at the end in honour of Our Lady (familiar to those who have seen Sister Act) before a party in St Joseph’s School. The next big celebration was a community festival in the park and (owing to the wet weather) the New Windmill Hall, including a Big Band Concert with Brentwood School Big Band (with several members of our parish on stage), a beer tent run by the Taproom (situated on the site of the original 1920s church) and a wet bouncy castle. Later in the summer we had a series of Masses and social gatherings for different areas of the parish, which I hope will become an annual event. The high point of the year, coinciding with the date when the parish itself was established in October 1923, was a Mission led by members of the Sion Community based in Brentwood. Each evening during the week we came together for Mass, a meal, and a time of formation and prayer; alongside this we had a successful youth event and a parallel mission in St Joseph’s School. Many of the talks and faith sharing were recorded and are still available to watch via our website. During the year we have naturally given thanks for the blessings of the past 100 years, but a key theme has been to look forward, to reconnect with one another and with God, to rediscover the beauty of our faith and the good news we have to share, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are loved by God and made to share his life. Please join me in praying that the blessings of the past year and past 100 years will bear rich fruit in our parish and wider community in the months and year to come.
At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, true God and true Man. Although this is the moment he begins to dwell among us in a visible way, it was nine months earlier, at the Annunciation, that ‘the Word became flesh’, miraculously conceived in his mother’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Traditionally this turning point in our salvation is recalled three times a day through the praying of the Angelus – ‘The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…’. At St Joseph’s, we pray the Angelus together at the beginning of weekday Mass. Customarily a bell is rung at this point to announce the Good News and call the whole community to prayer, but sadly we have no bell – though we do have two turrets that would easily house one! As part of our Centenary legacy we have been raising funds for two projects. One of which, a prayer garden dedicated to Our Lady to be shared by the school and parish community, is underway. The other, for which we are still in need of funds, is to have a bell hung in one of those turrets that could be used to chime the Angelus and also to call people to Mass and signal the moment what Christ becomes present on the altar at the consecration. It would be marvellous to see both projects completed in 2024. If you have contributed already to our Centenary Appeal, then thank you. If you would like to make a donation (or an additional donation) then you can give online here. You can download the Appeal leaflet to find out about other ways to give – or if its easier just pop a cheque through the presbytery door payable to ‘Catholic Church Upminster’ in an envelope marked Centenary Appeal (with your gift aid number if applicable).
Our Lord was born in place under foreign rule and the circumstances of his birth, in the stable in Bethlehem, were a direct consequence of that. The Christmas story includes a terrible massacre. There is darkness as well as light; that is, after all, why a Saviour is needed. Christ comes as ‘prince of peace’, yet God’s peace is not merely an absence of conflict, it is a peace that comes from all things being ordered according to the will of God. Only then do they fulfil God’s purposes for them and attain that good for which they were made. We pray for true and lasting peace in our world and especially in the Holy Land, as well as Ukraine and elsewhere, and we pray for the victims of war. Let us pray too for all those for whom Christmas is a challenging time, through bereavement, sickness, homelessness, family difficulties, or worries about work and money. If that applies to you, I hope that our parish will be a supportive family for you and I will be happy to talk and pray with you if that would help. Practical help may be available from one of our parish groups such as the SVP.
I do hope you will join us at one (or more) of our Christmas Masses (see below). This year Christmas falls on a Monday, which means Advent is as short as it can be and the fourth Sunday of Advent flows into our Christmas celebrations. I encourage you to observe the fourth Sunday of Advent as a final preparation for the festival, as well as Christmas itself, and as part of our preparation for Christmas on that final Advent Sunday I invite you to bring along the baby Jesus from your own crib to be blessed at the Saturday evening or Sunday morning Masses (23rd/24th: Mass times as normal).
God bless you all,
Fr Matthew’s video message
Click here to watch in our Facebook feed instead.
Christmas Masses 2023
Sunday 24th: 5pm (simple vigil Mass aimed at families with younger children); 6.30pm (family vigil Mass with carols and blessing of the crib); 11pm (‘Midnight’ Mass with the choir; carols from 10.30pm).
Monday 25th: 8am (said Mass of the Dawn); 10am (sung Mass of Christmas Day).
If you are visiting Upminster over Christmas then you are most welcome to join us. There is no longer any need to book in advance. The 6.30pm and 11pm Masses are likely to be the busiest, so you are advised to come in good time.
The church is just off St Mary’s Lane, close to the centre of Upminster and about 5-10 minutes walk from Upminster station. There are very few parking spaces at the church, so those who come by car are encouraged to use nearby public parking facilities. There is some on-street parking but we ask those parking on the street to take car not to block access to residents’ driveways.
Finally, if you haven’t received a physical Christmas Card from the parish, here is a virtual one.