Monday, November 14, 2005

A Memorable weekend

Memorial concert
Continuing the weekend’s Remembrance theme, we had a concert in church on Saturday night to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem and other pieces by Cantorion Llandaf, a very powerful and capable local choir. There were about sixty people present. My enjoyment was not improved by there being problems with the church heating – the boiler was refusing to light automatically, necessitating two trips out into the churchyard to the dank and dirty subterranean vault housing the thundering monster. It is the first time in the three years I’ve been working here that I’ve had to double as boilerman, as well as host introducing the concert, as there was nobody else around able or willing to do this. Since the complaints came to me about the chill, I had to try and do something. Not very successfully. At least the weather is so mild the boiler is being pressed into service a good month later than is usual, all of which will shrink heating bills that cast a shadow over our bank balance. Finance is becoming more and more a problem. We’ve had quite an increase in activities this year, and a modest growth in regular average attendance but not in income.
The two churches in the parish that once were the wealthiest,
St John’s and St James’ are proving the least capable of paying their way – a huge worry for us all.

Cenotaph service and parade
A warm sunny Sunday morning, with only the early service and one Sung Eucharist to celebrate. Then I was free to be able to attend the Remembrance ceremony at the national Cenotaph in Cathays Park, just opposite Cardiff University’s main building. I was there as a participant for the first time. In years past my presence at a 11h00 service elsewhere meant I couldn’t take part, so the Churhc in Wales has been represented by Fr Stuart Lisk, Vicar of Ely, formerly designated Mayor’s Chaplain, but when there was a change of regime, the ‘Chaplain’ term was done away with, although not the role. Stuart remains a religious advisor to the County Protocol Office, and continues to help them devise a great variety of special ceremonies and public services - these days they are not only ecumenical but also multi-faith in character (as well as bi-lingual). Stuart does a superb job, and still presides on such occasions along with other religious dignitaries, in a calm sensitive way which benefits the occasion. I’m not sure they want to do without him, no matter what the politics. In recent years, the City has made more use of St John’s for Civic events, and made use of me to arrange events as well. I always invite Stuart to share the task of preparing and officiating. It’s good the City sees teamwork from us in public service and not rivalry.
The good weather brought out a crowd of over five hundred, I’d say, and an equal number of services personnel, who paraded after the wreath laying, City officials taking the salute in front of City Hall. I again enjoyed just being there, seeing people I knew taking part, greeting friends and colleagues, and slowly beginning to feel part of the place. It was all beautifully organised, and the ever vigilant security people were there, barely in evidence, but still necessary just in case in these turbulent times.

Entering the Mystery
After Evensong, with its preceding Remembrance Sunday muffled peal of bells, a brisk walk around the block to Cardiff’s International Area for a diocesan Eucharist organised by the Youth Chaplain and his committee. Around four thousand people were there, of all ages. The drab hangar-like structure had been minimally but suitably adorned to serve as a place for worship. There was a music group from the West Midlands leading worship, texts and graphics were delivered by projectors on to hanging screens to left and right. There was another screen over the podium where the officiants sat, displaying live TV shots, which was on times illuminating, on times distracting. The whole thing was a celebration of the mystery of God present in the Eucharist, with a lively sermon from Bishop Lindsay Urwin.
Archbishop Barry presided, and looked a bit tired. He’d been over in
America all week. Hundreds of people were involved in runing the event, as stewards, distributing communion, serving the liturgical event, running the electronic multi-media side of the event. The music was all simple modern rock-soul stuff, easy to join in with, more capable of generating excitement than awe. Many of the musical items, even ones which the congregation joined in with, concluded with applause. There were even a few attempts at football chants at the beginning, but these soon died the death as the liturgical activity caught attention through the striking and effective simplicity of the ceremonial. It was very theatrical, and it struck me that the creative approach to movement and actions commonplace in theatre is something the church has often given up on, preferring the set menu of traditional liturgical rubrics, and it has lost out as a result. Hopefully, once they’ve recovered from the surprise of an innovative event like this, many traditionalists will not be able to see the Eucharist with the same eyes again. It was a very happy relaxed effort, and the combined teamwork was a real credit to the organisers and made the occasion all that had worked and prayed it would be.
I’m not a fan of large gatherings of any kind, and I went because I thought I should. Two in one day – I must be mad! On times the sound system was overwhelmingly and disturbingly loud, but that was my only complaint. Yes, I’d have liked some music which evoked a little more awe and mystery, as TaizĂ© chants do so effectively. And I’d have liked longer deeper silences, but to have sustained longer quiet moments with such an exuberant and excited young constituency would not have been easy. It was inspiring that the event achieved such a high quality of production.
Seeing something done so very well made up for the bits I found irksome.

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