There must be a point at which an exiled mission abroad becomes an established church in its host country. It might be to do with numbers attending; it could be to do with finding a permanent base at which to meet. It’s a point which has certainly been reached when the numbers attending pack out the beautifully dedicated church to overflowing.
The Catholic church of St Stanislawa Kostka is just off the city centre and caters for the city’s growing Polish community. Interestingly it is only a stone’s throw away from the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash and the Shree Krishna Temple. A two minute stroll would get you to the Spiritualist Church or the Jamia Mosque. And there are plenty of others close by. Not a bad choice really - I’m surprised the city council hasn’t started marketing the area as Coventry’s multi-faith quarter. It’s probably only a matter of time.
It should be noted that, far from being new arrivals, these places of worship and the burgeoning communities they represent have been in the city a long time. They are well-established and clearly very popular. They are part of a very diverse cultural complexion which should, you’d think and hope, be a useful force in countering the violence and knife crime which blights these modern days.
St Stanislawa’s really is packed this morning. The pews are shoulder to shoulder and there are people crowded in at the back and down the aisles. It being a glorious morning, the doors are open and there are even people peering in from outside. There’s a few up for baptism as part of this first mass and most are looking suitably smart for the occasion. It’s a lovely setting. A fine mix of modern light and colour with some traditional fittings included. There’s a similar mixture in the music too. The songs are led by acoustic guitar and percussion with a more traditional organ accompaniment coming in when called for.
From first to last there’s not a word in English, as you’d expect. Does that matter? Having been to a few masses in my time I don’t find it too hard to keep track of where we are in the normal course of things. The responses and songs all have a pleasingly Eastern tonality to them but much is the same.
Not that it would make a difference if every word were in English such is the non-stop background babble of chatter - mainly, though not exclusively, from children. I’m convinced there are more children in this church than any I’ve been in. That bodes well for a lively, if noisy, church in years to come. I’m not complaining however. This whole service has a genuine feeling of family and community about it. It’s as if all those not directly involved in the baptisms have just come along to watch. There are times when the whole congregation suddenly responds in unison and I’m genuinely surprised to find they were all listening.
The service over, there are families grouping together for pictures to remember baptisms. This community strikes you as very together and very tight. Not excluding others (I felt entirely welcome) but celebrating what they share. I can’t help but think this is what it will be like back at the family home enjoying another very Polish Easter.
Wesolych Swiat Wielkanocnych as I believe they say.