Singing the next verse

“it makes me realise what an amazing privilege we have, and yet what a huge responsibility, singing the next verse of the Great Story and Song to those who have not  yet heard the tune, with a certain freedom to improvise, but in such a way that the Word is still heard. ”   Sue Wallace speaking about Cathedrals, and Transcendence at York Minister, in particular. 

Singing the next verse..  joining in with the song. Finding your voice and  daring to sing, even when the tune is unfamiliar.  Discovering God as composer and conductor.  I have been sitting with this quote for some weeks now, partly because it is a key quote in an essay I have been writing on Cathedrals and the Mission Imperative, and partly because the image sparked something in me.

Perhaps it is because I love re-inventing..  ‘How can I do this differently? ‘ is my default approach. I have come in recent years to appreciate the rich inheritance of tradition in Church liturgy, and all the depth and nuance it gifts us with. I have no desire to sweep it away, but I do want to add to it. Contribute my own voice/verse. In an age where culture and language change at a breathtaking pace, I want to be at the crest of that wave, as it were. The Good News is as relevant now as it has ever been, but less and less people have heard the song. There is both a need and a place for finding ways to make the song one that connects. The possibilities are endless and the question is only,

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’  Psalm 137:4 


Early morning in Peterborough Cathedral

The early morning sun streaming through the East windows; bells tolling for worship, that fall quiet to the deep hush of this vast house of prayer. Its soaring dimensions and simple beauty simultaneously uplift and enfold the soul. These ancient stones are steeped in centuries of faithful orisons offered God-ward day and night, in word and song. We gather for prayer, humbly aware of our place in a long line of worshippers that stretches far back into the distant past.

I mused a couple of months back whilst on holiday in Chamonoix ( see Looking Up) about my response to mountains, and how they make my spirit soar. Working in the Cathedral, and being surrounded by such beauty everyday, is not unlike living with mountains, in an otherwise very flat landscape. There are many parallels. The constant changing light, that gives it so many moods and faces. The outsize dimensions and immense scale, to name just a few. This cathedral, like most, may have been built with very mixed motives, including those of power and authority, but it was primarily built to sing God’s glory.  It lifts my heart to God, and His presence is very tangible here.  Its effect on all who enter its ancient wooden doors is visible. Most simply stop and look, taking in the enormity of space. It catches me every time I walk through the building, or from one part to another- thrilling to a shaft of sunlight lighting a particular space, or the blaze of candles on the priket stand. It manages to combine both the majesty and intimacy of God in a way that is hard to explain. How such a voluminous building is able to convey intimacy, has to be experienced to be fully understood. A bit like God, I guess.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
Even the sparrow finds a home,and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. ”  Psalm 122

“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
That the the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory.” Psalm 24