Monday, June 30, 2014

The value of getting things wrong

This weekend our Cathedral, like many others across the country, has been on its best behaviour as we have welcomed the friends and families, parishioners, past, present and future and a more clergy than you could shake a stick at (unless, of course, you are an awesome, multi-gifted verger, who can shake a stick, or at least a verge, at any and everyone) for two wonderful ordination services, for priests yesterday and deacons today.
This is scene setting only, as it was VERY important for everyone present that things ran smoothly and, despite gremlins in the sound system this morning, that's exactly what happened.
And 14 new priests and deacons emerged from the Cathedral to serve God and his Church, - and behold, it was very good.

But last weekend, when so much went WRONG, was equally helpful - if only for the learn-pigeon Canon Pastor.
Let me tell you about it
First of all, because of back-to-back gala dinners in the Cathedral, the 8.00 am Holy Communion service was diverted to our friends at Holy Trinity, just up the hill...and because this is the Cathedral's month, I went with it, complete with an abridged-version of the sermon I had prepared on the Common Worship lections for the 10.30 Cathedral Eucharist.
Except that Holy Trinity use the BCP readings - so I had to produce an instant thought-for-the day...which, thankfully, was relatively straightforward.

Fast forward to the Cathedral Eucharist, where the Deacon decided to abbreviate the gospel, omitting the portion on which my sermon was based. Never mind. The full text is printed in "Cathedral Matters" so no harm done & on the whole the sermon seems to have gone down OK.

Home for late lunch, and snooze in the garden - relying on the return of OH from a supermarket dash to rouse me well before I needed to leave for Evensong. Except, his trip lasted way longer than expected and I woke, aghast, with 10 minutes to get myself to the Cathedral, robed and ready.
Made it, by the skin of my teeth, though without proper footwear or collar (oh, the blessings of choir dress, which hides a multitude of sins)...and was beginning to relax and think "I can do this Cathedral lark" or something similarly inappropriate, when we reached the "Final Suffrages" - the set of responses which close Choral Evensong here. 
The organist gave me a note. "Strange" thought I "That doesn't sound like a "D"...More like the "A" that has been the intonation note all through the service...But I don't have perfect pitch. I'm probably just loopy..." So I sang the phrase on the page in front of me, still unhappy about the pitch - it felt way too least a 5th...
No response at all from the choir.
I looked desperately at the director of music, who looked equally desperately back.
I couldn't make any sense of what has happened. I know I sang the notes on the page...but clearly Something was VERY WRONG.
After what felt like a couple of centuries, the Director of Music sang the plainsong intonation - and the choir responded - with plainsong. 
NOT the responses I had in front of me at all. 

Later I discovered that I had not taken leave of my senses. 
The note that sounded like an "A" WAS indeed an "A"...
I had been given the wrong music for the Final Suffrages...because, when Evensong is sung without the gentlemen, the choristers always do plainsong, regardless of which Responses they've used earlier.
Not my fault after all - though I have seldom felt such a complete and utter idiot!

But, coming in to work the following day, I realised that I was now far more relaxed, less worried about getting things right. 
Because, of course, I had got all sorts of things very publicy wrong - and nobody had died, the Cathedral had not imploded, and God was and is still God!
Hugely liberating!
Of course I will do all I can to manage the intricacies of Cathedral worship - and indeed Cathedral politics - according to the customs of the place...but it will never be perfect, and actually that doesn't matter.
Intention is all - and mine is to give God my best efforts in everything.
That's what really matters.


Simon M said...

I now understand what you meant about my not being present at choral evensong :-)

UKViewer said...

Love it.

Cathedral Evensong can be quite a perfect production - any hiccup is noticed. Not so for parish Evensong, where we sometimes have a reserve organist who is known to miss a note or three during the hymn. Or the choir singing the Anthem with one of the newer Choristers scrabbling frantically through their papers for the Anthem, and not finding it. Despite rehearsal on the Friday before it.

Our sound system has it's quirks as well and often at a vital part of a service breaks for every other word so we get the words of the consecration etc in that manner. It's due for upgrading, but it can be the cause of amusement during a particularly, overlong sermon when a word or two gets lost - sitting at the back means that you might get a different idea of what is being said from those at the front.

The Vicar must stand in trepidation at the door waiting for any comment about the sermon content, but generally it's sympathy or understanding from those who missed the vital bits.

I'm told that worship must be done well with appropriate music, prayers, preaching and diligence. But that forgets humanity, it forgets ageing technology and that people actually do have a sense of humour and will accept that not everything goes right all of the time.