JULIAN Kent can truly claim that God is in his garden...
And now the Portsmouth priest is in the running for a Shed of the Year award for painstakingly converting his garage into what is said to be the world’s smallest cathedral.
Outside, the 19x12ft green and white structure looks just like any of the outbuildings in the access lane behind homes in Meredith Road, North End.
But inside, it is a lovingly-crafted house of the Lord, containing a High Altar, the bishop’s chair (called a cathedra), pews, a rood screen and an organ.
The Priory Chapel of Our Lady of Beaulieu is also the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Church UK, whose dozen or so priests around the country include four in Portsmouth. They belong to the Congregation of Brothers of the Merciful Love of God, a religious order in the Benedictine and Franciscan traditions .
A small congregation gathers for regular services at the chapel, which has been transformed over the past five years from a humble garage to a religious blaze of colour inspired by the mediaeval and baroque traditions.
Now it has been nominated for the Unexpected award in the Cuprinol-sponsored Shed of the Year contest. Father Julian said he was both surprised and delighted at the news.
‘It is not a curiosity or “Wendy house” but a fully functioning and serious place of worship with a congregation inclusive of many who, for various reasons, have felt less than welcome in the mainstream churches’ he said.
‘The most we have ever accommodated at one time is 22. The children had to sit on parents’ knees, but we managed to get everyone in! The previous occupants used the garage as a laundry and when I arrived, there was a tumble dryer where the High Altar now stands.
‘The cathedral is an ongoing work and I haven’t finished it yet. Altogether, it has cost around £500 for all the ornaments, the floorboards, the tiles, and all the other things that have gone into it.
‘I never imagined that we would be nominated for an award, but a member of the congregation got in touch with the organisers and said Father Julian’s shed should win because it is the smallest cathedral in the world!’
People can vote for the cathedral as Shed of the Year at readersheds.co.uk.
Father Julian added: ‘We are an inclusive and welcoming independent Catholic church and encourage people to find out more about us through our Facebook page.’