My shed started life as a 6 foot by 6 foot summer house about 22 years ago when I bought it in kit form in a charity auction for around £100. It stood at the bottom of the Rectory garden (when I was an Anglican priest) and I used it as a quiet retreat.
When I became a Catholic priest in 2011 the shed moved with us. Within the Catholic Church I have the care of a small group of ex-Anglicans in Scotland called the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. As we had no permanent church, I enhanced the interior of the shed to make it suitable for saying daily Mass on weekdays.
It soon proved too small for our needs so I extended it into what had been the porch, the only extra cost being two panes of glass for the extra side windows. My father was a cabinet maker and I have inherited many of his skills, so all the work was done by myself using materials I already had. At this point that it became The Oratory of St Joseph. Joseph was a carpenter, my father was a cabinet maker, and I built the shed!
I had a number of small statues of Saints and a large statue of Our Lady, St Mary, which took up residence in the Oratory and with the help of a good friend in Edinburgh I was able to find a splendid circular brass tabernacle, six brass candles and a crucifix, large statues of St Joseph, the Sacred Heart, the Infant of Prague and various other ecclesiastical items to adorn the chapel. I was also given gifts of a splendid Orthodox Icon of the Scottish Saints and another of Our Lady of Walsingham.
As the Ordinariate began to grow, I added a pavilion, a raised platform with a roof, between the shed and the garden pond to give an outside sheltered seating area. As numbers continued to grow I added clip on sides to give protection from the weather. Two years ago I decided to improve this by extending the already extended summer house. Again, costs were minimal, and now it is 14 feet long - 8 feet longer than when it started.
The shed, The Oratory of Saint Joseph, has been a work in progress over the years and all who come to Mass each week say it is a haven of tranquillity in a quiet garden not far from the centre of Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands of Scotland. My wife, Ruth (yes, I am a married Catholic priest), who is a textile artist specialising in Celtic design, designed and made three stained glass windows, now inside the entrance.
The three-part altarpiece, the Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Angels, is a copy of a work be the Italian painter from Florence, Agnolo Gaddi, who produced most of his works between 1369 and 1396.
The 28 images on the top two rows of the roof in the sanctuary depict the Life of St Francis are copies of the Giotto frescoes in the Upper Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, painted between 1297 and 1300. The roof of the nave is covered in copies of my favourite pieces of church art, and the newest extension has copies of the mosaics from Monreale Cathedral in Sicily, built between 1170 and 1189. The rood screen is a photograph I took of the Ninian Comper screen in St Cyprians, Clarence Gate, London, built in 1903.
have celebrated Mass in the Oratory on weekdays since 2011 but when the first lockdown began in March 2020 and the stay at home order was given, I streamed Mass each day from the shed though our website.
Up to 120 people joined me every day from Essex to Stornoway in the UK as well as in Australia, the USA and someone on a drilling platform in the South Atlantic.
When the next lookdown happened I decided against live-streaming because it is so impersonal.
I used Zoom which gives me the opportunity to meet the other people.
Everyone can see who else is with us at Mass and then, when Mass is over, we can chat with each other over a virtual coffee.
This proved a great success in bringing people together, and made us all feel less isolated.
The response from other people has been the driving force for all this.
While using Zoom to broadcast Mass is not ideal, in lockdown is offered a very valuable way to help people, especially those isolated and on their own.
It created an opportunity for people to feel part of the church family, even when we were all in lockdown and unable to get out and about.
There is even a spiritual side to this, that people are getting the nourishment of the Mass, albeit in a peculiar way through Zoom.
The social side is also important for peoples morale, just to feel that we have friends that we can meet up with and share the joy of Ordinariate Catholic worship.
People have said that this has been a life lineduring lockdown.
In an unexpected way Zoom has been an amazing success in so many ways and even now, as lockdown eases, and people can again be present with me in person for Mass in my shed, we continue to have others joining us through Zoom.
In February one of our Ordinariate members who lives by the side of Loch Ness suggested that we might use the Mass by Zoom from the garden shed as a way of promoting the Ordinariate in Inverness.
I agreed and one evening I had a call from a journalist from the Press & Journal (P&J), the daily newspaper for the north of Scotland and Regional Daily Newspaper of the Year.
She sent a photographer who was surprised at what he saw, and compared it to Orkneys famous Italian Chapel.
He stayed for 40 minutes taking photographs!
You can imagine my surprise when on the Saturday the P&J carried a full-page article with two large photographs.
I was even more surprised the following week when two national newspapers, the Scottish Daily Mail and The Sun, also carried the story - full page again with photographs.
Headlines like Father Shed, Son of Man Caveand Give us this day our Naily Shedleft me speechless.
Pope Francis has made this year 2021 The Year of Saint Joseph, so I decided that perhaps it is appropriate that my shed, The Oratory of St Joseph, should be entered into the Shed of the Year competition!