Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Compare and contrast three church services.

 In the 21st Century the church plays a significant role in the life of our community. It is not just on Remembrance Sunday that churches provide the setting and the context for people to come together and mark significant events. In recent weeks, as Mayor, I attended three such events in addition to my own Civic Service at Holy Trinity in Southport. On each of these occasions the church have been well attended. At Holy Trinity we ran out of service sheets. A congregation of around 300 including local community group, charities and institution many of whom I had visited and others known to my chaplain Rod Garner, filled the pews.

Let me begin with two contrasting services on 16th October. First up the Judges Service at the Cathedral to mark the beginning on the legal year and secondly the Induction and Installation of a new priest, Amanda Bruce, at St Luke's Great Crosby.

It is not every Sunday that a fanfare sounds and I get to walk down to central aisle of Cathedral in a civic procession while the choir sings Vaughan Williams Te Deum. The choir went on to sing one of my favourite choral pieces, Benjamin Britten's Jubilate. And whilst we are on the music I should point out that if there is any lingering doubt about the appropriateness of girls singing in church choirs then it should finally have been resolved by the singing of psalm 121. The solo soprano had all the purity of tone and clarity of an Ernest Lough or an Alled Jones.

I was interested to see how the preacher, Judge Graham Wood QC approached his task. Liverpool Cathedral was the setting for the beginning of the final act in the outrageously long process that saw the righting of a great injustice when Bishop James Jones reported back on the work of the Hillsborough Panel. Wisely the Judge began by telling us of all sorts of judicial errors from the past and the present.

The one thing that spoiled this service for me was the propensity of the official
photographer to be shoving his lens where it ought not to be and snap snappy away during the prayers. Call be an old fogey but that upset me.

The afternoon saw some of the same cast from the Cathedral reassemble at St Luke's. The service was led by the Bishop Paul Bayes who was clearly at home with this congregation, he knew their songs and choruses, they were comfortable with each other. For all the modernity and informality the key parts of the afternoon; the Oath of Obedience, the Giving of the Cure of Souls, the Anointing, the Installation and Induction would have been familiar to Cramner.

After the service we gathered in the Church Hall for refreshments. I am keeping a list of the best baking that I encounter this year. The Baptist church at Maghull was an early entrant as were the folk at Birkdale URC and I will certainly add St Luke's. I was promised that there would be photos of the cakes on their website, but sadly I cannot track them down. Before I left I was invited to a Beer Festival which is an outcome I had not expected. On my way out I was approached by a gentleman who entreated me to look after his daughter, as the conversation developed it transpired it was Rev Amanda Bruce's father. I looked round at the gathering and felt I could reassure him that with the support of the congregation at St Luke's he need have no fears for his daughter.

For some of us in Birkdale we know how distressing the outcome can be when the selection of a new priest is mishandled and therefore it was a particular pleasure to see priest and congregation so obviously well suited. You can judge for yourselves as although the promised pictures of the cakes appear not to have materialised the St Luke's website does have a video of the service.

Last up is the Civic Service for the Lord Mayor of Liverpool at the Parish church. We were back with more traditional Anglican music which, once again was sung to a very high standard by their choir-no youngsters this time. I was particularly taken with anthem of Tallis's  O Lord give thy Holy Spirit. We also heard the Brain Charity choir sing Yesterday and Bella Mama.

This was a different style of service honouring the role that charities have made in the city. There were two contribution from local voluntary organisations: Jacquie Johnson-Lynch from Tom Harrison House (army veterans) and from Steve Hawkins CEO of local Solutions who has been around the City's voluntary sector almost as long as I have.

We were led back to the Town Hall for refreshments by a Samba band

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