‘A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR MANY NATIONS’ Mark 11:17
For over 50 years this site has been a centre of prayer and service to the community.
1962-1965 The Second Vatican Council modernised the Catholic Church. This included allowing church services to be celebrated in local languages instead of Latin, making it possible for church goers to be more involved.
1969 Westminster Diocese created a Centre for Pastoral Liturgy led by Father (later Canon) Harold Winstone. Its role was to produce a modern English liturgy, including translating and adapting existing Latin texts. Father Winstone wanted to base his activities in a parish, to ensure his proposals worked.
Also in 1969, the Diocese invited a group of Ursuline Sisters from Malta to run its international students’ hostel on Portland Rise.
1973 The parish of St Thomas More was created, mass first being celebrated in a room above a pub.
1975 The church of St Thomas More opened with its the Liturgy Centre. The church is designed for ease of participation in the mass and for liturgical experimentation. The Liturgy Centre led liturgical renewal, producing new texts and music – a group of church music composers was also based here – for church services. A team led by Father Winstone translated the text of the mass from Latin to English.
1980s the hostel closed, the area around the church developed into affordable housing and the nuns opened a nursery on Adolphus Road (Ursula Mews marks their presence in the area). The Liturgy Centre, now led by Father Michael Shaw, left for larger premises and was replaced for a few years by Pax Christi.
Today the church remains the focal point of a diverse community, its interior enhanced by Russian-inspired icons and a powerful contemporary crucifix from a North London chapel where generations of priests trained for service in Africa.
The parish continues to serve the wider community through collaboration with local Citizens networks and international development organizations such as CAFOD. The offices of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice and the Irish Elderly Network are to be found at the side of the building.