Friday, October 09, 2009

Organ organ all the time

Last night I accompanied David, my second adult candidate of the year to his confirmation at St Martin's Roath. I was his sponsor and was pleased to meet his family there for the first time. David is one of our regular weekday worshippers who work in the city centre and live elsewhere. His family are Baptist church members. I wondered what they made of the incense charged ritual pomp, in that vast echoing building, where the voices of the eighty plus congregation hardly seemed to make an impression in that huge space. To me, it seemed on times as if they were stifled by the sheer loudness of the organ playing, a musical equivalent to the preacher's maxim - 'argument weak, shout louder'. Not to my taste. Admittedly, it's difficult to use a church to best effect for worship, built for 500 (with a wide open liturgical space) when a fifth of that number is present, much harder than using a medieval church with its subdivisions and chapels.

Finally, this morning after a five month wait, I had a hospital appointment to check the night nose-bleed problem that has injected a degree of uncertainty into my life over the past eighteen months. The nurse specialist examined me thoroughly after I'd told my story, and declared that the lesions are now healed, and nothing else suspicious is lurking in there. I arrived early for the clinic and was out again before I was due to be there. Having taken the precaution of getting Archdeacon David Lee to stand in for me at the altar, just in case of delays in being seen, I was under no pressure from my next deadline.

However when I got back to church, it was clear the tea room had been busy from the time it opened, so I installed myself at the sink and washed dishes until closure. It was busy with early shoppers (maybe due to recent press publicity), and also with concert goers. Around three hundred people were present to hear organ maestro Thomas Trotter play, and a good proportion of these came in to eat as well.

I missed the concert but took a short break at the end to greet people. and was myself greeted by a departing concert goer, who introduced himself as Selwyn Morgan, organist at St Paul's Newbridge. We'd last been together fifty years ago in the Lewis School Pengam, where we'd started in the same class. It's not the first time this kind of reunion has happened since I've been at St John's. One of the nicer consequences of being in such a public ministry.

Much as I enjoy organ music and take pleasure in our good instrument in St John's, I miss the unaccompanied monastic singing of Ty Mawr over in Gwent, Taizé, in the Burgogne and the Abbeys of Tamié and Haute Combe in the French Alps. All these have played a part in my spiritual formation. No matter how well our worship goes, there's a part of me that craves that route into contemplative silence where only the human voice, in unison or harmony, bears the Word of life to God's people.

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