Monday, 17 April 2017

Joy in small things

Today was total relaxation day after the 4-day marathon that was Easter.

The singing was hard work but mostly good and occasionally excellent so worth all the effort.

More than 10 hours altogether it takes its toll vocally and with accompanying stiff joint from too much standing followed by sitting in uncushioned wooden choir stalls.

All the services were good in different ways and on Saturday the huge baptism and confirmation one with our Bishop who not only sings very well but also includes some very funny anecdotes in his homilies and sermons, helps to take the edge off the extreme length of this particular evening.

We had better-than-usual congregations for all four services which is quite heartening and makes it feel worth while.

Today I pottered.  A bit of this and a bit of that, nothing  strenuous and with time to observe the birds in this case starlings having a communal bath and emptying the bird-bath about a half dozen times.

Each time I refilled it and the last time I did so there was not a bird in sight only a very small squirrel sitting holding on to the edge of the bath with its little hands and drinking as though water were going out of fashion

Obviously I know they must drink but have never seen one doing so before.

My camera was, of course, upstairs and I was down.

The picture above is unrelated but I liked it.

Easter.  Done and dusted.  Back to (normal) tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The First of the four is accomplished

This evening we had our Maundy service with foot-washing, the first of the big four services which lead us to Easter Day.

We started an hour's rehearsal of all the music for the whole of the services at 6.pm followed by an hour and a half long Maundy thursday service.

Tonight we had some of the usual hymns, the anthem was "An upper room" to the tune of "O Waly Waly" and led the congregation into the lady chapel to the Taize "Watch with me".

A slightly lighter and easier selection than we have had in some previous years, but still a lot of singing.

Oh and I forgot to mention "Ubi caritas the plain-song version which we sang during the foot-washing.

Tomorrow from 10 00 am there is first of all the stations of the cross followed by various other events until the choir sings an assortment of pieces from about 1.30 until 2.00 pm when the Solemn Liturgy begins.

On Saturday we have our usual big service with the Bishop singing the Exultat followed by baptisms and confirmations and the return of the light.

On Sunday morning those of us who have survived the 3 previous services will present the usual Easter Day service which for the choir will finish with "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah.

There is then an Easter Egg hunt in the churchyard for the children. (By which time, those of us who  value our lives will have fled) and tea or coffee for the brave/foolhardy few who remain.

I'm glad Easter only comes once a year.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hosanna

This lovely Hosanna is the one we sang yesterday, Palm Sunday.

Since we have sung it in one or two previous years it didn't need too much polishing, and I think, we did it justice.

The same however, cannot be said for the rest of the service.  For me and for quite a few others, it was perhaps the least satisfying Palm Sunday ever.

Our current incumbent is a horse of quite a different colour from the previous one/ones.

By no means everyones' first choice in style and with it seems, little regard for the traditions of our particular church he dithers, changes things at the last moment, leaves others to organise and then steps in and alters things at the last second.

The result being a chaotic mish/mash of what has gone before and totally new ideas.

There is no way we can influence him or persuade him to simply follow what has gone before, nor is it our place to do so, but, these days I leave church on Sunday feeling ruffled and irritated and thoroughly bad-tempered.  This I'm sure is not the way to start the new week.

Either I need a magic wand or a personality replacement so that I can happily accept this wholly alien
approach to prayer.

Suggestions welcome.  (I think) !!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Confusion

This morning I saw a Reed Bunting in the garden.

Normally I get a flock of six or more throughout the Winter months, a nd by Spring they have vanished.

Not so this year.

Everyone keeps saying what a very mild Winter we have had, and, to an extent I agree, but  when we should have had ice an snow (Jan-Feb) we had very warm days with more sun than usual and plants, birds every type of wild-life started to make ready for a new season.

Since then we have had a number of setbacks, extremely cold and strong winds and lashing rain followed by sunny mild days and cold nights.

The 'Met Office' says the first day of Spring is 1st of March.  We who have been around a while, and are in 'touch' with our historical roots know better.

The 1st day of Spring coincides with the Spring equinox (21st of March).

The 'Met Office' says tonight the clocks go forward one hour which is the beginning of British Summertime.

We know that Summer begins with the Summer Solstice (21st June) or thereabouts.  Quickly followed by Midsummer's Day!!!!!

No wonder the birds are confused.  So am I.  

I have just tried to do some cutting back of dead wood on some easy to reach shrubs, lured outdoors by the brilliant sunshine, only to give up after 10 minutes of battling a freezing and very strong wind.

My daffodils are lying face down in the garden waiting for the wind to go elsewhere when hopefully they will lift their frozen little faces up to the sun.

If this is global warming what on earth will happen 10 years hence?

Will the weather have changed beyond recognition, will Summertime even exist, or for that matter
will we?

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Time marches on

Tempus Fugit, or sometimes it does.  Other times it crawls.

A year older today, I am now 82!!!

This year I have felt all of those years but, bugs and viruses defeated (touch wood) am now starting to look outward rather than in.

Yesterday I received two lovely bouquets of flowers and my sitting room smells gorgeous.

Today, looking at the cards which have winged their way to me I felt a small but definite lift in spirits.

I had a long talk to middle brother on the phone yesterday and was reminded how much contact with loved ones counts when living alone.

In the 7 and a half years since John died I have come to value my three brothers in a way I never previously did.

Taking each other for granted is par for the course between siblings and it takes a sharp reminder such as the death of a spouse to make one realise that our personal landscapes complete with support team are not just a background to our lives.

My three brothers have of course some things in common but are also very individual and I value them all, each for their own slant on life.

Friends in church and in the Close all play their part in my single status life but the ties of blood are, inevitably, the closest.

One of my cards is from my oldest friend, ( since school days)  and that too is a very special link.

Watching the dreadful series of news programmes on TV covering the East Africa famine is heart-rending and the stuff of nightmares, yet it is the everyday reality of these poor  peoples' lives.

Helpless to do anything except pray and wait for the details of how to donate money to appear on our screenes, makes us all the more aware of the huge gulf between their lives and ours.

It seems the situation in Africa never improves despite years of aid from other countries and billions of pounds being poured into the bottomless pit of misery.

Clearly the root cause is not being tackled, but, what can we do at our level?

I fear this is one thing which time will not heal.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Incense and St David

Tonight we had our imposition of ashes service.

We also had ( for me the unwelcome ) return of incense.

I love watching the ritual of the incense being swung but not quite so much when the sacristan swings it in the direction of the choir.

Enclosed as we are in the chancel the smoke stays with us for most of the service, whereas in the main body of the church it tends to drift up into the (very) high roof.

Trying to do justice to "Hide not thou thy face" with a throat and chest full of pungent incense is not easy.

By the time the black cross has been impressed on my forehead by the rector's heavy thumb and with lungs full of smoke my one desire is to get out into the cool damp air of the churchyard and breath clean air.

Since our organist was unable to play this evening our long-suffering choir-mistress had to play the piano to accompany our singing.  This meant that we had no-one to conduct and of course the sopranos lost her beautiful voice to swell their ranks.

Ash Wednesday being a fairly stylised service it was not possible to mention the fact that today was also St David's day, but as the piano accompanied our exit after the service I suddenly recognised a Welsh folk tune in the medley being played.  Our lovely Christine's nod to my patron saint.

Lent is well and truly started.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

My first ever Mattins

Last Sunday was my first attempt to take part in the morning service since the 8th January.

The Friday rehearsal was something of a shock.

We were told it was to be a Mattins rather than the usual Eucharist as there was no priest available to give Communion.

Unlike most of the other members of the choir I have no tradition of Christian worship and the Eucharist is the only service with whose music and liturgy I am familiar.

It is such a totally different piece of Anglican worship that I found myself stumbling to keep up (very good for the brain, if not for the ego) and was really rather glad when it came to an end - about 20 minutes earlier than our usual Sunday.

Talking to some of the congregation since then I found they were split into two distinct camps.  Those who are used to and happy to attend Mattins and those for whom the Eucharistic service is the only one they would choose to attend.

If this hopefully one-off Sunday has caused so much alarm and consternation i begin to see how some of the bigger divisions in the Protestant church have come about.

Never mind the differences between Baptist, Methodist Catholic and Anglican church, this is just one of the presumably many differences in just one branch of the Anglican church.

Religion is meant to unite people isn't it?

Roll on next week when Lent begins.