Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Singing with the understanding...

One way and another, my thoughts recently have been much occupied with what it means to be Anglican. I have a rather alarming sermon to preach for Inclusive Church here on Saturday, for one thing, while yesterday I attended a training day on Anglicanism, lead by Favourite Canon D and the redoubtable Richard Giles. I’ll blog this properly later – but first I want to lead you up a side road which intrigues me.

Soon after my arrival at St M’s, I visited a lady in the congregation who no longer attends church regularly. However, St M’s has long been part of her life and that of her family, and she is saddened at the decline in younger families attending the main Sunday Eucharist.
I found her proposed solution to this problem somewhat startling… Promise not to laugh? It was just two words “Choral Matins”!
I had to confess that I’d not thought of this as a mission tool,- despite my own roots in the English choral tradition… Matins just didn’t work for me when I was exposed to it regularly (the year of my teenage rebellion –when I abandoned my parents’ Anglo Catholic church for the Protestant Evangelical one down the road,- and found Matins in place of the Eucharist as the main Sunday diet) and in my theology the Eucharist is the most helpful way in which to gather the people of God in worship.

However, I did think of her and smile on Saturday as I joined the congregation for the Royal School of Church Music Diocesan Festival in Gloucester. I know she would have approved, for there were literally hundreds of young choristers present,- some so small that in cassock and surplice they looked as if they might have slipped out of a Christmas card, others at the peak age of teenage disaffection, who sauntered in, trying their utmost to look bored, but then sang with the sort of commitment that leaves no room for confusion. The standard of music-making was impressive, and the choice of music a delight (from Vittoria “O Quam Gloriosam” through the Hallelujah Chorus to one of my all time loves, Elgar’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”) but best of all was the atmosphere of concentrated joy about the place. These kids were proud of leading worship in their Cathedral, proud that they could sing so well, immersed in every way in what was going on. Glowstick Knight (who claims to be LoudBoy no longer) was one of quite a number who received Dean’s or Bishop’s Chorister awards – signs that there is personal as well as corporate commitment here, since the exams involve quite a lot of preparation and understanding of worship as much as music. All in all, it was a thoroughly Good Thing to be there – though truly bizarre when the exit of the choir (some 400 strong) meant that the Cathedral was all but empty!

Yesterday I was talking about this with two colleagues at a training day,- guys who are both young and cool! One of them shared the pleasure he had taken in being a teenage chorister,- though his subsequent route to ministry has taken him along completely different tracks. We agreed that this was a baby that shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater…Not Choral Matins, perhaps (!!) but the fact that there are so many children and youth who still choose to spend time engaged in something as deeply untrendy as membership of a church choir is a blessing we shouldn’t overlook.

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