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Do any churches use Lenten array, veil images from Lent 1 on?

22 March 2019

Write, if you any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or to add to the answers given below.


Do any churches use Lenten array, veil images from Lent 1 on, and observe other “English” customs — or has all that gone?


Your answers: At St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, in London, the tradition of covering statues and pictures during Lent has been maintained annually without a break since first since introduced by Percy Dearmer in 1902. Photographs and an explanatory text are included on our website www.stmarysprimrosehill.com.

New hangings were donated in 1915, including the Passiontide frontal still in use for the high altar, designed by E. E. Dorling and painted by two members of the congregation. The trickier matter of veiling the great Rood (erected in 1915) was not attempted until 1920, when a suitably large plain hanging was hoisted into place by means of pulleys and ropes, a system still in use today. The hangings have been adapted and repainted from time to time, most recently in 2017.

For practical reasons, we have long had our “public hanging” on Shrove Tuesday, in time for Ash Wednesday rather than for Lent 1. The reward for a successful outcome, coffee and pancakes as befits the day, has also become something of a tradition.

(Dr) Christopher Kitching (Honorary Archivist, St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill)
London NW3


Lenten array is in full use at St James the Great, Haydock, as it has been for many years. All crosses and images are veiled from Ash Wednesday in sackcloth with red orphreys. During Passiontide, this changes to red-dyed sackcloth with black orphreys. All the vestments worn by clergy and servers are matching. During Lent (except on Refreshment Sunday), the parish eucharist begins with the Litany, sung in place of an introit hymn, and the Lent Prose is sung as the gradual.

(The Revd) Andrew Welsby CMP
Haydock, St Helens


At St Augustine’s, Birmingham, Lenten array, consisting of vestments, altar frontals, etc., in unbleached linen or hopsack with red designs, is used from Ash Wednesday until Easter Eve, wherever the rubrics of the Western Rite prescribe purple. (Purple is still used for Advent and the ’Gesima Sundays). From Passion Sunday on, all images in the church are veiled in calico. I do not believe that we are entirely alone in this, and I know that Lenten array is similarly used in St Birinus’s RC Church in Dorchester. Though it is considered “English”, the Lenten array is not exclusive to this country and was used in some French dioceses before the Second Vatican Council. As for other English customs of the season, we can also put our hand up to the blessing of yew and willow branches for the procession on Palm Sunday.

(The Revd) Matthew Tomlinson
Edgbaston, Birmingham


Your question: To reduce our outgoings, we started using a cheaper fortified wine for communion. There have been howls of protest from some quarters about the taste (it’s a bit sweeter) and colour (it’s a bit lighter). Can anyone suggest a good budget communion wine? The one that we introduced retails at around £5.50 per litre.

S. J.


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