Just before Christmas one of our main supporters Mike Telford* died and his funeral took place in Eastbourne on the eve of Christmas Eve celebrated in the Rite he lived for by our Vicar General. Mike would have loved that. He and his wife Gwen had moved back there, she was too sick to attend. Mike had been on dialysis several times a week and had even so at first driven the 60 miles here and back to Horley most Sundays. Then, when he could no longer drive had caught the train here, which can be a little erratic on a Sunday. He and Gwen his wife then moved to Eastbourne, their health grew even worse and as Gwen became even frailer and it became much harder for them to get here. I am so pleased that I have Mike's brother's breviary.
There are several others who are of a similar age who come here from similar distances to Mike Gwen. Many of the older attendees here had been taught by experience to be wary of the clergy and never introduced themselves, they loved the old Mass and suffered a great deal for their love, as they become increasingly older, the become more dependant on others and slowly fade away.
The other group of people who we lose are young men, at three who attended the Traditional have discovered vocations, two to the priesthood and another to a contemplative monastery, I offer Mass for the weekly.
These are the losses, on the gains, we have families with younger children. Those who home school come to the Sunday Latin Mass, and occasionally to the weekday one on Friday evening. We are the only parish in the diocese which offers the Traditional Mass weekly on a Sunday, the congregation for low Mass is rarely above 40, it is at the non-Traditional time of 6.30pm. A few people come along to it because it is the last Mass in Brighton and Hove's twelve parishes. Some, but not most, if they can learn to deal with the silence of it become addicted. At sung Masses, like Candlemas (at 7.30pm) there is a larger congregation, our choir are bi-ritual and sing more or less the same as they would at our 10.30 Sunday Mass, I am quite proud of them, they make a beautiful noise.
The problem we have now is finding servers, who can serve with a modicum of recollection. Our older servers are growing stiff, the younger one's move away. I was delighted one of them said he was moving out of Brighton but would make the two hour train journey to get here for Mass on a Sunday, I am loathed to ask those who have served at previous Masses to return just so those at the Traditional Mass can have their celebration. At the moment our Traditional Masses future doesn't look too good, but it is surprising what an Ave or two can do.
At the heart of the problem is the generational switch, older devotees are dying off, the young are not necessarily less committed but their lives are often less clearly marked out, the pressure of work restricts their flexibility, one of our servers apparently has been made to work early in the morning so even 6.30pm Sunday evening is too late for him!
It is unfortunate because the monthly Traditional Mass at local West Grinstead, which has been celebrated through the dark pre-Summorum Pontificum days. has recently been suspended, the priest drove 50 miles to get there and only 8 people turned up.
*Mike is the white haired server on the Gospel side of the picture - pray for him.