Sunday, September 18, 2005

All kinds of Services, never a dull moment

Cardiff buses, so the saying goes while waiting on the street, always come in twos, when you've been waiting far too long. The same goes for weddings it seems. This weekend is the second in the past couple of years when I've had two weddings on the same day. This was unremarkable 15 years ago, in Halesowen Parish, when four or five weddings was the norm during the marrying season. But now we have so few - three altogether at St John's during 2005 with two on the same Saturday, then that's the lot in a parish with three other churches!
The first was of an older couple, with some nicely chosen music sung by a local choral group 'Oriana', and quite a small congregation. The second was of a couple of London based yuppies with family in Cardiff. There were about 250 toffed up guests - three coach loads, being taken to a castle in the Vale for a romantic reception afterwards. They sang with enthusiasm, which was unusual. The bridge and groom talked throughout the ceremony except when making their vows, and when a friend of theirs played pieces from the first Bach suite for unaccompanied 'cello. That single musical voice was clearly audible in every corner of the church - a beautifully human tone to it - quite spellbinding. More solo 'cello next Friday when we have a full length recital by a 'Cellist from Switzerland, plying baroque music on a period instrument - one Ludwig Frankmar, from Basel.
After the weddings, we had the AGM of the Friends of St John's, bringing together thirty odd well wishers and supporters of the church for Evensong and a meeting. Afterwards, four members of the congregation between them gave expository talks on aspects of the stained glass, church silver, sculptured reredos (by W Goscombe John), and 'Willis' organ. It was an display of expertise which impressed and encouraged the gathering to realise that the church's artistic and cultural heritage is cherished and handed on by many pairs of keen hands. Which is more than I can say for the other churches. There's lots of work to do just encouraging members of different congregations (small as they are) to take an interest in what belongs to them and not just maintaining it or hiding it all away.
In addition to the three Sunday services, we had another 'extra', to welcome members of the United Services Mess to worship. The Mess is a unique Cardiff institution. It's a club for people who are either members or ex-members of the armed services, which has a bars and serves meals and does military banquets with great style and efficiency. An office I inherited from my predecessor is that of Mess Chaplain - it goes alongside being Branch Chaplain of the Vale of Glamorgan branch of the British Legion. Every autumn members come to St John's for a service of their own and then have lunch together afterwards. Despite being up late composing two sermons, one for the Parish Eucharist and one for the Mess members, for once I found I had enough to say to keep myself energised for a long morning, followed by socialising. I slept for most of the afternoon when I got back after lunch.
As we were about to go into the Parish Eucharist at 09h30, a very tall bearded young man, casually attired, turned up and declared that he has never been to church before on a Sunday morning, and would it be OK if he were to join us. He duly entered, and opted to sit, not in the pews with the rest of the congregation, but sprawled on a chair in the north aisle. He followed the service, sometimes with his own quiet but audible comments, and seemed to taking notes on a pad (and sometimes on a service book). He seemed to disappear a the end, rather than join us for a cup of tea, but when the Mess congregation arrived, he reappeared, and a caught glimpses of him doing yoga during the service, which must have been a bit puzzling for those within sign of him. He made favourable comments about the sermon, during the service, as before, then disappeared at the end without saying a word. What with him and our 'Oriental enigma', it's never a dull moment during services. As for our Chinese lad, he's made himself scarce recently, since Alex, the restauranteur from opposite, spoke to him in Chinese, and attempted to follow him, to find out more about him.

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