A FIRE-damaged church is celebrating its complete restoration as it brings in a new altar and lectern.
Bishop Seamus Cunningham will consecrate the features at St Robert’s Church in Oldgate during a special Mass this evening.
It is just over a year since fire broke out in the church sacristy during Sunday Mass. No one was hurt, but the church suffered smoke damage.
Parishioners were invited to share facilities at St George’s United Reformed Church for three months last September while restoration work was carried out, and the statues, Stations of the Cross and stained glass windows were meticulously cleaned.
Further work saw a new central heating system added, while the altar and lectern were commissioned.
The final pieces were installed this week.
Parish Priest Father Lawrence Jones said: “This is a very important event in the life of the parish because the altar and lectern are the most important pieces of furniture in the church.
“The altar is central to the church. It is the ‘table of the Lord’, where we share Holy Communion and celebrate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, as well as his glorious resurrection. The lectern is important because it is the place that the words of the Bible are proclaimed.
“I consider the celebration of Mass this Thursday to be also a Mass of Thanksgiving for the fact that no one was hurt in the fire last year, which occurred when the church was full of people for Sunday Mass. We have to be thankful also that since the awful fire the refurbishment of the church has been accomplished without any difficulties.”
Project Manager Paul Lewis has overseen the production of the new pieces, which have been made entirely from local sandstone and oak.
The altar has been designed to reflect the Gothic arches around the cloister of the 12th Century Newminster Abbey, which was founded by St Robert on the edge of Morpeth in 1138. The ruins of the abbey still stand today as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
In addition to the new altar and lectern, the church’s altar rails have been refashioned.
The rails, which serve as a memorial to those killed in the First World War, were designed in the 1920s by the famous architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who worked on structures such as Waterloo Bridge and Battersea Power Station and designed the iconic red telephone box.
They have been repaired using matching Italian marble and take up a prominent position in front of the old high altar.
The Mass will take place at 7pm and will be attended by Deputy Morpeth Mayor Nic Best and ministers from other churches. After the service there will be a feast in a marquee.
The church will be open from 10.30am to 3pm on Saturday, which is also the day of St Robert’s First School fair, for people to view the new altar and lectern.