A CHURCH, Victor Hugo once wrote, is God between four walls.
A number of ecclesiastical "musts" are required to make God's presence all the more palpable in today's churches.
For their spiritual atmosphere, that je ne sais quoi which promotes reflection, prayer and devotion, Catholic churches used to rely on incense and Latin liturgy wafting through the dark air of medieval churches. Nowadays, with incense frowned upon on ideological (and for all we know ecological) grounds, and the Tridentine Mass held to be suspect by many, it is the task of the patient craftsman to create for the faithful a quiet haven where piety can survive, let alone flourish.
Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of religious gathering places is the stained glass window, with its rich hues and wondrous filtering of sun rays. Stained glass specialists Goodard dr Gibbs Studios have produced a bold and modern Penete-cost scene for a window at St Thomas More church in Barking. Essex which depicts the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles.
The Pieta of the Virgin Mary is one of the Michelangelo masterpieces to be found at St Peter's in Rome. Closer to home, in the church of St Joseph's in Colliers Wood, you can find another version of the Pieta in hand-made, antique glass.
Glass is also the preferred medium for the Chapel Studio which creates stained glass windows for churches (new and existing) as well as for convents both at home and abroad.
Two designers, Alfred Fisher and Jane Campbell, are behind the studio's production of glass masterpieces. Their most recent efforts can be seen at Field Heath Convent in Hillingdon, where a scheme of semi-abstract windows were installed in the new chapel; and at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Lewisham.
At the recently-built High Cross church in Camberley three contrasting types of glasswork have beeen used for the semiabstract design chosen.
Ecclesiastical vestments are of course part and parcel of holy places. One remarkable set of vestments of recent design was inspired by Terry Waite's captivity in the Lebanon. Derby embroidcress Juliet Hemingray. was able to display her Terry Waite vestments at the eighth national Christian Resources Exhibition, held last month at Sandown Park, Surrey.
Ms Hemingray had wanted to celebrate Terry Waite's release, and did so in the way she knew best she has already designed the robes worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, for his enthronement. The set of robes was presented to the Rev Henry Burgin at Terry Waite's home church in Blackheath.
The ecclesiastical furnishings catalogue is a lengthy and varied one: for the past 84 years, Vanpoulles, a three generation family business, has been supplying all types of church furnishings, from wine to refillable oil cartridges for false candles. A further development has been the forging of greater links with Slabbinck from Bruges in Belgium, a market leader worldwide in the midst of traditional and classic Belgian craftwork. Vanpoulles is now their sole UK distributor.
Finally, what about the fruit of the vine? Communion wines, since Jesus sat down to the Last Supper with his apostles, have remained an all-important feature of Mass.
Maison Caurette, which in acquiring Rawlings Voigt in 1987 inherited England's oldest supplier of church wines, ships its wines form south west France. The grapes are all certified by the Bishop of Montpellier before being shipped to the United Kingdom for bottling, The demand is widespread and includes: school and college chapels, HM Prisons, convents, parish churches, and abbeys, Together. these ecclesiastical props conspire to make God's presence palpable in his churches.