Thursday, 21 April 2011

Story before doctrine

Enjoyed attending the Blessing of Oils and Renewal of Ordination Vows service at Chelmsford Cathedral today. Over 200 clergy gathered for the service led by +Stephen Cottrell who preached on God’s call to Samuel and the woman washing Jesus’ feet. Some chrism 1 provocative and challenging insights but the comment that particularly stuck in my mind was +Stephen’s reminder that Christianity was story before it was doctrine. He went on to challenge us to allow ourselves to be drawn into the stories of the Gospel and to recapture the art of story telling in sharing the Gospel with others.

After the service we processed out and gathered around the cathedral green for a final blessing. As it was lunchtime a group of people were sitting on the grass enjoying their food and they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a circle of clergy, readers and bishops. Is this the first recorded experience of clerical kettling?

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One minor whinge. Why is it that there seems to be a moratorium on hymns written by anyone who is still alive at these services? We sang a hymn written by a 13th century pope but the nearest to anything contemporary was something penned at least thirty years ago. I had hoped that a diocesan service would reflect something of the breadth of hymnody and song being used in worship across the diocese and it is no surprise that some colleagues give it a miss. It wasn’t as bad as some of the ordination services I’ve attended in the last few years but was still a bit of a culture shock after Spring Harvest.


Gerrarrdus said...

Down in Peterborough we sang "Meekness and Majesty". It may be un-trendy to say this, but I was struck by how theological it is.

Charlie said...

Truro Cathedral leads the way! We sung "there is a redeemer" and "Jesus, beautiful saviour". Cathedrals in such out of the way places as Chelmsford clearly need to catch up with the mainstream.

Philip Ritchie said...

I agree with you about Meekness and Majesty Grerrarrdus and am not ashamed to confess to being a Kendrick fan.

Charlie, good to see Cornwall in the liturgical vanguard!

Ian S-T said...

I too was at Chelmsford, but sitting in the crowd because I was with an NSM, a Reader and a Churchwarden and it was good to sit together. I noticed when the priests stood that I was by no means alone in the cheap seats. Personally, I prefer it if clergy can sit with their people but stand at the vows; only the service officiants process; and enjoy fellowship over shared picnic lunch afterwards. Why not?

Ian S-T said...

Oh, and "Best Sermon Quote" (I thought) was when Bishop Stephen commented on Samuel's "Speak, your servant is listening" that in our own prayers we approach with the opposite opening, "Listen, your servant is speaking"!

Philip Ritchie said...

Good points Ian. One of he problems with the timing of the service is that many lay and ordained can't attend. Thanks for putting in the quote about listening,
I had originally included it and can't remember why it didn't make the post in the end.

Nancy Wallace said...

In Oxford we sang more than one hymn by people still alive.

Revsimmy said...

In Leicester we had TWO hymns by John Bell, Stuart Townend's version of The Lord's My Shepherd, a hymn by Brian Wren (though to a "traditional" tune) and, yes, Meekness and Majesty. BTW, for those of us who remember singing this as the theme song for Spring Harvest 1986, it is a bit worrying to realise that this Kendrick song is now 25 years old!

Other music in the service included settings of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei by Andrew Wadsworth (alive) and a hymn-anthem by Maurice Bevan (sadly died in 2006).

The more "traditional" element was represented by To God Be The Glory as the processional, and motets from a clergy choir by Bruckner and Poulenc.

It does rather sound as though Chelmsford's precentor and Director of Music might need to get out a bit more.

Tim Chesterton said...

I gave our Diocese of Edmonton service a miss. From a purely practical view, I lose Friday as a preparation day in Holy Week and I have three times as many sermons and services to prepare for, plus home communions. Taking out Thursday morning as a prep day too (half hour drive downtown, liturgy and reception, home in time for lunch if I'm lucky, and I didn't have the three hour drive in from the rural areas that some of our clergy have) just wasn't on. If we're going to have this sort of service, I think bishops need to be a bit more practical about the timing of it.