Sunday 7 November 2021

For church and normalcy

On an easel in the cathedral.
Back to church indeed

Church, a place for Sunday or maybe a Sunday place to meet, whichever way you look at it, this Sunday was not one where I had decided I would be out of bed and ready for joining a congregation some 20 minutes’ walk from home for the Sung Eucharist, but against expectations I did.

One of the shifts about not needing to plan for this was we have moved to a post-pandemic stage of not having to register on the Eventbrite app to attend. The church had returned or assumed a new normalcy and having not attended service for a while because of other engagements as extended rest or being out of town, I was in for a surprise.

The changes I noticed

At the processional hymn, the procession had the clergy as usual and the full choir, not just a cantor and supporters, before then, the Dean came for a general chat to the congregation pointing us to events and programmes in the church week and a particular insert in the service pamphlet before announcing the banns of marriage for two couples. I have not heard the banns for years; surely young congregants are getting married somewhere.

During the service, the laity took the readings of the Word from the pulpit apart from the Gospel that includes ceremony and address attended to by the clergy. Even if I got more involved in church activities, I doubt I would readily take the offer to do a reading from the Bible. I dread the amplification of my voice; it sounds alien to me that I have shied from microphones. If I cannot project my voice naturally to a listening audience in a smallish place, I won’t be straining it in a hall. A public speaker, I am not.

Of things not imagined

For Communion, rather than the warden doing the ushering as has been the case for most of the last two years, we have two ladies from the congregation helping for order and at the end of the service, we gathered for teas and coffee, indoors where we socially interacted with other congregants. The only vestige of the pandemic left was a majority wore face masks during the service.

Whilst I have attended church a few times since July, this year marked the 600th Anniversary Celebration of the Collegiate Church and Queen Elizabeth II came to visit the church on the 8th of July on one of her first major outings since Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed on. I was not present as I learnt of the event after the fact, but the plaque she unveiled as on display and now the whole church was open to visit including all the chapels within the main cathedral and so there was much to display and see. [Manchester Cathedral: Her Majesty’s visit to Manchester Cathedral]

Lest I forget, the processional hymn did not end in a crescendo but in the almost quiet of the context of the words we sang, for in these troubled pandemic times, nothing could be more comforting than this:

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm!
[The New English Hymnal NEH 353 Dear Lord and Father of mankind]

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