Of course we didn't forget All Saints, though it felt slightly squeezed by the two All Souls tide commemorations...
Because it was a first Sunday, the service in the valley was an All Age Communion, where some children I'd worked with at school led lovely prayers based on the random selection of saints they had chosen and though it wasn't exactly a high solemnity, as it will have been in my former stamping ground, there was still alot of joy about the place and, using our revised liturgy for the second time, the pace was good and a straw poll of children and parents suggests that the format works for them. Hallelujah!
In the afternoon we celebrated Church on the Hill's Patronal Festival with a Songs of Praise, plus guest preacher - the Archdeacon of Gloucester. As in the valley, patronal festivals had been neglected in recent years so the turn-out wasn't amazing but the choir included singers from both churches and there was some almost hearty singing, to compensate for the absence of heating (I'm beginning to wonder if there's some malevolent power at work to ensure I am well and truly frozen this autumn). It would have been lovely to have a whizzy SATB double choir to sing an anthem, but that is currently the stuff of dreams...
So instead, here's what I would have loved them to sing, had they actually existed
The music is William Harris, the words Edmund Spenser - and I've loved them both since I first sang them at Cambridge, far too long ago. If there are enough singers around, I'd love this sung at my funeral.
I hope and believe that this is truly how it will be - and the perfection of the music "as to the highest they approach more near, yet is that highest farre beyond all telling" seems to me to express an echo of the beauty it describes. Utter bliss.
Faire is the heaven where happy soules have place
In full enjoyment of felicitie;
Whence they do still behold the glorious face
Of the Divine, Eternall Majestie;
Yet farre more faire be those bright Cherubins
Which all with golden wings are overdight.
And those eternall burning Seraphins
Which from their faces dart out fiery light;
Yet fairer than they both and much more bright
Be the Angels and Archangels
Which attend on God's owne person without rest or end.
These then in faire each other farre excelling
As to the Highest they approach more neare,
Yet is that Highest farre beyond all telling
Fairer than all the rest which there appeare
Though all their beauties joynd together were;
How then can mortal tongue hope to expresse
The image of such endlesse perfectnesse?