Convent land development, Parish income & Sacred music

Many thanks to all those parishioners who participated in the process of consultation which took place to discuss the proposed development of the Lewisham Parish convent land. My thanks again to Aylie O’Hanlon of QOH Architects for her presentation to the parish last month and to all those who took part. The next phase of that project will be to produce the documentation needed to seek permission from Archbishop Anthony to proceed with the proposed building project.

One way the convent land building project will assist the parish is financial. Should we succeed in building the four houses they will provide considerable rental income to the parish. Despite recent gradual increases to giving from our parishioners, for which you have my sincere thanks, the parish’s income has dropped in recent years by over 40%. Our operating expenses cannot exceed our income because using our cash reserves to fund operations would endanger the building project which in my view is essential to the financial viability of the parish into the future.

Unfortunately, the only part of the operating budget which the parish has the discretion to remove is the position of Music Director. It is therefore with deep regret that I must announce that the position of Music Director will no longer exist from Sunday 26 December, 2021.

When the position was created in 2018 it was envisaged that sacred music would be one of the principal features of parish renewal for St Thomas’s. Despite encouraging progress in 2018 and 2019, especially visible in parish school liturgies, the Solemn Sung Sunday Mass at St Thomas’s, budding formation of new choirs such as the Young Adult Choir, and Children’s Christmas Choir, COVID severely hampered our ability to implement our envisaged sacred music program, and has even been a contributing cause now to the loss of many of our choristers.

Parishioners at St Thomas’s regularly express their appreciation of our choir and so I want to thank sincerely all our choristers past and present for the hard work they have put in week by week over several years now. St Thomas’s would be an utterly different place without their contribution to the sacred liturgy!

Consequently, despite the parish’s current inability to fund the position of Music Director, which therefore ceases to exist on December 26, it would be unconscionable to fail to support, even if in a reduced form, the St Thomas choir and sacred music at St Thomas’s generally. It is therefore my hope that in the New Year we will be able to come to a new arrangement with our outgoing Music Director, Stephen Smith, to continue to provide us with some of his services in a fee for service arrangement in 2022.

Customarily, the choir takes a recess after Christmas, and so we will proceed throughout January with a reduced sacred music program at our Sunday masses. In 2022 it would be my hope to see a return to greater congregational singing post-COVID, and our music program in 2022 will reflect this goal.

My sincere thanks to Stephen Smith for his hard work and dedication in building up the culture of sacred music that has so pleasingly arisen at St Thomas’s in his time as Music Director. The Church has its own music, and we have been constantly exhorted to return to it by countless Popes, to little avail in most parishes. It has therefore been my genuine delight to be able to resource and encourage a serious engagement with the Church’s sacred music tradition at St Thomas’s.

Please take the time this Sunday at morning tea after mass or over Christmas to thank Stephen for his work as Music Director at St Thomas’s and all our wonderful choristers whose hard work and dedication have made our liturgies at St Thomas’s so very beautiful!