Saturday, 10 May 2008

A Sea Symphony

It's been a noisy evening - as I sit at my desk I can hear both the Irish singer crooning away in the parish club and the Nigerians making their novena for Pentecost (there's a lot of 'congregational participation' at the moment and this is upsetting the presbytery dogs) - and, to top it all, I've just returned from a performance of Vaughan-Williams' Sea Symphony by the Hackney Singers (of which a parishioner is a member).

They did an excellent job, as did the Essex-based Forest Philharmonic Orchestra (which is of professional quality). I had a good view of the triangle-player, who was kept surprisingly busy during the 70 minute piece. Call me a cultural philistine but I'm not really into the big choral set pieces of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although the texts used by the choir certainly contained a searching meditation on the journey through life, which are just like the storms and calm of the sea.

The concert was held at the huge 1790s church of St John-at-Hackney - built for a congregation of 2,000 but now attracting a congregation of 60 or 70 (judging from the newsletter). It replaced the medieval church (only the sixteenth century tower remains), which has always fascinated me because the nephew of John XXII, Cardinal Gauscelin Jean d'Euse, held amongst many other posts that of Rector of Hackney (1328-34) - a rather unexpected link between Hackney and papal Avignon!

In the parish newsletter there was an interesting review of a book written by a more recent Rector, describing his experiences as 'an inner city parson.' Although described as a Christian agnostic (!), the reverend author did make a good point about the Anglican clergy that is just as valid for Catholics - as the reviewer put it, 'clergy are expected now to be not so much ministers as managers of the local branches of a national chauin store, with "delivery strategies" and targets, except without the staff to order around...John [the author] deplores what he sees to be a Church of England culture "intolerant of the idiosyncratic...the bland leading the bland."'

Moreover, 'he was proud to say he belonged to a passing generation of clergy taught that mornings should be spent in your study. Books are always more important than meetings.' Hmmm, that's rather commendable.

So, the words of the 'Sea Symphony' and this rather eccentric article in an Anglican parish newsletter provided me with food for thought; appropriate since on Monday I go on my annual retreat...

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2 Comments:

Blogger Padre Steve said...

You do a beautiful job with the blog! This is my first visit, but it won't be my last! Keep up the great work, keep smiling and God bless! Padre Steve, SDB

3:12 am  
Blogger Fr Tim Finigan said...

Ah yes, the crooner at the parish club wafting through the air - double glazing is very helpful in blocking this out and enabling one to get on with some work :-)

5:30 pm  

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