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Goodbye to church.

Byline: DAVE ROBSON

EVERY seat was taken when a Redcar church hosted its final mass after nearly 40 years of service to the community.

As part of a review of Roman Catholic churches in Redcar and Cleveland, St Alban's Church, at the junction of Low Farm Drive and Yew Tree Avenue, has closed.

But it bowed out in impressive - and emotional - fashion, with a packed congregation, from babies to pensioners, greeting 10 local priests and Bishop of Middlesbrough, Terry Drainey, as he led the final mass.

The congregation included parishioners who had been part of the congregation since 1967, when Bishop Brunner announced the parish was to be formed.

Before St Alban's Church opened in 1972, the congregation attended mass at either St Williams in Dormanstown or Sacred Heart in Redcar.

Father Louis Collingwood was in charge when the then Bishop of Middlesbrough, Gerard McLean, officially opened and blessed the new church on March 3, 1972.

A plaque recorded the fact, adding that it was dedicated to St Alban - the first martyr of Britain.

In nearly 40 subsequent years, the church became a focal point for Catholics in that part of Redcar.

A regular supporter was Redcar busker Norman Evans MBE who helped to buy a new organ.

In his farewell homily to St Alban's, Bishop Drainey reminded the congregation of the lives that had been touched by the parish and its priests in the 44 years of its history and in the 38 years that they had a parish church.

He emphasised the importance of memories, but also that there was a need to look forward and not be nostalgic.

Towards the end of the mass, the Bishop introduced Deacon Bernard Morgan, recently ordained as a permanent deacon for the diocese and said he had asked Bernard to work with the parishes in Redcar to assist and support its priests and communities.

He stressed again the importance of looking forward towards a new beginning in the Redcar area.

On a final note, Bishop Drainey told the congregation he was sure it had not been an easy mass for them, as it hadn't been for him. The tears shed by some certainly indicated it hadn't been easy.

But he felt sure they would look to the future and the renewal that would bring.

Among the concelebrants was Father Neil McNicholas, who had been a member of St Alban's parish from its formation and who, in 1993, celebrated his first mass in the much-loved St Alban''s building.

Redcar currently has two other Catholic churches - St Augustine's, Warwick Road, and Sacred Heart, Lobster Road - about a mile from each other.

In addition St William's, which comes under the Sacred Heart parish, lies in adjoining Dormanstown.

St Alban's Primary School in Yew Tree Avenue, where the church is situated, was closed a few years ago and the land sold to a housing developer.

CAPTION(S):

FINAL FAREWELL: Bishop Terry Drainey, far left, led a last service at St Alban's Church in Redcar, left and below
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 15, 2011
Words:502
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