I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me

There are few things more magnificent than the offering up of wonderful church music in churches. I love choral music, wherever I might happen to hear it – be it in ancient theatres, in drafty school halls, or on my iPod on the train to work. I get a huge buzz from singing it in the city’s concert venues and come home from performances so high that I don’t sleep for hours. But there’s still something special about listening to it in a church and I’m privileged to be able to do that every Sunday. This weekend, we have had a positive orgy of that something special.

It began on Thursday evening with our inaugural celebration of Corpus Christi accompanied by the Reinberger Missa Cantus in E Flat. I have no qualms at all about saying that of all the things I have ever done inside a church, this service was the most hilarious and most luxurious, and had the most potential for it to all go horribly wrong. It was gorgeous. I came into this with no real idea of what the Feast of Corpus Christi was all about (I was baptised and raised and confirmed and educated for fifteen years in the Roman Catholic church; as I was told just before the service, the Catholicism evidently didn’t take very well). It is truly about pure pure joy. It’s about doing a sacred thing and taking that moment to simply rejoice in it, and, for that time and that festival, knowing that it is entirely right and proper to feel laughter bubbling up as the thurible swings ever closer to the Provost’s glasses. My God knows a thing or two about suppressing giggling fits, I think.

On Friday, a Parisian organ mass performed to Francois Couperin’s setting Messe pour les Couvents for the Feast of John the Baptist. A quieter and simpler service but just as beautiful, and a chance after all the high spirits of Thursday evening to sit down and simply let the words of the Eucharist wash over us.

And today, the cathedral choir were holding a Come and Sing Messiah. It has been a stupendous day with much laughter and more coffee and a great crowd in fine voice, and it was a wonderful opportunity to sing that music in that space. I said that there was something special about the offering up of wonderful church music in churches and for me that was very special indeed.

The feast of joy and wonder and delight continues tomorrow, with a glorious orchestral Evensong with massed choirs (and Parry: see title) at 6.30pm and before that the normal worship at 10.30am. Whenever I talk about or hear anyone else talk about normal worship at St Mary’s, I’m reminded of Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, who came to a very normal service and ended it by saying, “If you belong here, you are blessed. If you don’t belong here yet, you are crazy – they do this every Sunday!”

It’s my last weekend in Glasgow until mid-August, the longest I’ve been away since I first came here four years ago, and this has been a thoroughly perfect way to spend it. There is a picture from Corpus Christi that just completely sums up my experience of this weekend. It reminds me of the suppressed giggling fits. It expresses the potential that there was for everything to go so very very wrong (I was walking backwards at the time). It shows a censer and censed. And if I close my eyes, in the middle of it and surrounding it and raising up its voice to the rafters, I can see and feel and hear the very real Body of Christ. These are my people. They are the ones who make me laugh and make me cry and make me know that this is where I truly come home to. I thank God for them every single day.

All due credit for the wonderful photos used here to Gordon Smith.



  1. You looked preternaturally solemn throughout the CC mass. My fear was largely that Glasgow did not hold enough petals or enough incense, but the miracles kept coming.

  2. There is seemingly no end to the incense that Glasgow can hold, even when one has lost ones incense boat. I suspect that the apparent solemnity was a combination of trying not to laugh and trying to keep many things straight in my head, but I was feeling very joyful on the inside.

  3. Pingback: More Corpus Christi Comment | What's in Kelvin's Head

  4. We would have at least been at the Messiah had we not received another invitation first. SO wanted to be there; haven’t yet made it to St. M’s for anything, oddly enough.

    You look very sweet with your thurigible. Since I was nearly smacked in the head with one at a Greek Orthodox wedding last week, I share your giggling.

    I hope — yet don’t hope — we’re here when you return from Taz. On the other hand, I suppose it means we must meet again if we don’t say a proper goodbye… Looking forward to watching how it all comes together for you.

  5. Okay, so technically it’s a thurible. That is BORING. A thurigible is like a cross between the Hindenberg and that shiny thing you swing. A tethered zeppelin at church! Woot!

  6. Tanita and David, if you are free this evening and wish finally to come to something at St M’s, Orchestral Evensong kicks off at 6.30pm with Parry’s I Was Glad, Bairstow’s Blessed City Heavenly Salem, Stanford in B Flat, and the Crown Imperial.

  7. I knew I couldn’t get there in time to get robed, last minute instructions, etc; so I, too, totally enjoyed it and my lack of responsibilities!
    You were brilliant at the backward-walking, btw!

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