Bishop consecrates new church altar

Bishop Seamus Cunningham at a service to consecrate the altar at St Robert's Church.
Bishop Seamus Cunningham at a service to consecrate the altar at St Robert's Church.

MORE than 200 people crammed into a Morpeth church for special service to consecrate a new altar.

St Robert’s Church in Oldgate commissioned the altar and a new lectern after a fire last year caused smoke damage to existing features.

A Mass was held last Thursday, led by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, and seven priests from the area, to dedicate the important furniture.

Parish Priest Father Lawrence Jones said: “It was a fantastic evening. The church was packed and there were people standing at the back.

“I think people were delighted with the new altar. People said it looks as though it has always been there, it fits in so well. That was a big worry, would it fit in?, but it is lovely.”

The altar, which has been designed to reflect the Gothic arches of Newminster Abbey, contains relics of three saints – St Maria Goretti, St Anthony of Padua and St Bernadette – and Fr Lawrence said it would be lovely if Morpeth’s own saint, St Robert of Newminster, could be found and placed there in the future.

“The altar points towards St Robert and our heritage at the abbey. If the remains of St Robert were ever discovered it would be a fitting place to have them,” he said.

One of the most significant parts of the Mass was the anointing of the altar with the holy oil of chrism, a sign of consecration. The oil contains balsam, a resin from the Middle East, which gives the aroma.

Children from St Robert’s First School also took part in the service and clergy from other churches in the town attended, along with Morpeth Deputy Mayor Nic Best and Town Clerk Gillian Turner.

At the end of the Mass, the refurbished altar rails, which are a First World War memorial, were rededicated, watched by relatives of more than 40 parishioners who perished in the war.

Afterwards there was a celebration in a marquee next to the church, with a hog roast.