The church building itself was closed after the Second World War, as the parish it served had been largely destroyed in the bombing of Portsmouth. Converted into a naval store, it was more recently recognised for the architectural gem that it is. A trust was set up to restore it, and the Ordinariate congregation meets there for Sunday and weekdays Masses. I last saw the building some twenty five years ago, and the restoration has been impressive. The interior is dark and austere, a brick basilica with a wide and open sanctuary. The murals around the apse by Heywood Sumner are particularly fine, and are very visible without the baldachino (which must have been very splendid).The use of the Ordinariate form in St Agatha’s has been described as ‘the Extraordinary form in English’. My interest then, was to see how this was worked out, in contrast to our own practise at Most Precious Blood, Borough, where the Ordinariate Use (Thursday evening’s) is based on the Ordinary form of the Roman Mass. The Mass was celebrated by three priests – a celebrant, deacon and subdeacon, and there were two laymen who also wore dalmatics (but not stoles or maniples) one of whom carried the processional cross and the other sat with the Abbot.
Like the Procession at the beginning of the Mass this owed rather more to English mediaeval ceremonial than to the Roman Rite. Nonetheless, the High Altar with its numerous candlesticks, the lace albs and birettas, and the heavily embroidered vestments gave the feel of 19th century Anglo-Catholicism, rather than 18th century Belgium or France. The Mass Rite was the Ordinariate Use, with the ministers and servers saying the Preparatory Prayers before the altar while the choir sang. The Mass setting was Mozart’s Credo Mass (with orchestra) and all the movements including the Creed were sung by the choir. After the Blessing the Last Gospel was read by the Celebrant, followed by the Angelus, Salve Regina and Prayer for the Conversion of England. The First Reading (or Epistle) was sung facing the people, and a procession for the Gospel went into the nave (not facing north as in the EF). The Mass was long (five minutes short of two hours) even though some time was saved by the Celebrant beginning the Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon) while the Sanctus was being sung. One notable departure from the Extraordinary Form was the recital of the Institution Narrative in a clear voice for all to hear.
I present this description of the Ordinariate Use celebrated in this particular way for comparison: you might like to read my earlier post of our practice at Most Precious Blood.