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A village church on a village green
Thursday 21st May 2015

When you visit Pembury in Kent, as Joanna Bogle discovered, you cannot fail to notice St Anselm's church - because it's a major building site!

At present the church, which stands near the centre of the village, near the pub and shops, doubles as a hall during the week. When I visited on a Tuesday morning, a lively playgroup was in progress. Every Sunday, Father Ed Tomlinson and a team of vcolunteers hurry to arrange the altar, chairs, lectern, kneelers and everything necessary. But that is now about to change.

With major landscaping, and the creation of a new entrance, a parish hall is being built, releasing the original building to become a permanent church standing in a beautiful garden and with its own lych-gate and outdoor Calvary shrine.

St Anselm's has well-attended Masses and a thriving Sunday school, but it has been operating under difficulties. The Sunday school currently meets in a cramped sacristy, a tiny weekday chapel doubles as storage for various items, and the church lacks proper pews and interior fixtures because of the need to transform it into a hall each Monday morning.

Fund-raising, working on plans, and obtaining the necessary permissions, have all made for a busy time over the past two years, but the work is now in progress, and the village is seeing a new local landmark emerge. The outdoor Calvary and the newly-planted garden area mean that what was once an unnoticed rather gloomy overgrown area is becoming noted local feature.

"It's exciting watching it all happening," says Fr Ed, who with his wife Hayley joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on its establishment in 2011. "The new hall adjoins the church, and there is a fresh path that leads up from the road to the entrance. Once the work is completed, we can bring in the pews that are already ordered, and work on the church interior. People are enthusiastic and generous and it's a real community project."

One small part of the project are the kneelers for the church. These are the traditional sort, hand-sewn in cross-stitch to a variety of designs. A number of volunteers have been working on these, and I took along a completed one when I dropped in for weekday Mass. Fr Ed took a pic and here I am standing beside the St Anselm's building site that will shortly be a charming village church and hall, holding the kneeler!

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The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
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©  The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a company limited by guarantee with no share capital registered in England, Company Reg No: 07582943 and Charity Reg No: 1141536.