Friday, 3 July 2009

A week as canon-in-residence

The stall of the Ninth Canon in the chapter stalls in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

For the past week, I have been the canon-in-residence in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Each chapter member or cathedral canon undertakes to preach in the cathedral on at least two Sundays a year, and then he or she is in residence for the rest of that week, taking part in or attending cathedral services, and being involved in the pastoral life of the cathedral.

Last Saturday’s seminar in the cathedral crypt made a very joyous day. That joy was enhanced by the fact that many of the choral scholars and choir members passed their gold exams with the Royal School of Church Music with honours. And we finished the day appropriately with Choral Evensong that included the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis and an anthem to settings by John Tavener.

On Sunday morning, the Third Sunday after Trinity, I preached at the Cathedral Eucharist, linking the current cathedral exhibition, “Icons in Transformation,” the previous day’s seminar, “Icons in Liturgy and Culture,” and that afternoon’s ordination of three priests with the idea that priests should be “Icons of Christ.”

Then on Sunday afternoon, I took part in the ordination of three deacons to the priesthood – the Revd Anne-Marie O’Farrell (Sandford with Milltown), the Revd Robert Lawson (Celbridge and Straffan with Newcastle Lyons) and the Revd Stephen Farrell (Taney).

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, I took part in Choral Evensong, reading one of the lessons each day. Wednesday evening’s Choral Evensong was special for the Organ Scholar, John Mountford, as he was conducting the cathedral choir for the last time. On Thursday evening, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis came from the Gloucester Service by Herbert Howells.

Saint Thomas in the south windows of the Lady Chapel, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On Friday at the Cathedral Eucharist, as we remembered Saint Thomas the Apostle, my eyes drifted up to one of the south windows in the Lady Chapel with an image of Saint Thomas.

During the week, we also had concerts by the Heartland Youth Chorus and Cantus Novus, who are visiting from the US.

Traditionally, each canon in an Anglican cathedral has his or her own stall, with the principal dignitaries at each of the four corners of the chapter stalls: the Dean (south-west), Precentor (south-east), Chancellor (south-east) and Treasurer (north-east). In addition, in Christ Church Cathedral, there are allotted stalls for the two archdeacons (Dublin and Glendalough) and the three prebendaries (Saint Michael’s, Saint Michan’s and Saint John’s).

Some of the canons’ stalls, including those nominally assigned to the canons-in-residence, are now used by members of the choir, so many of the chapter members are quite relaxed and in formal about where we sit. Out of a sense of curiosity, I went in search of the stall for “Canon IX” … and found that this stall, just below the Precentor’s stall, is normally used on a day-by-day basis by the Dean’s Vicar. Now i feel less guilty about using the Precentor’s stall for most of the week.

Next week, the canon-in-residence is the Dean’s Vicar, Canon Mark Gardner. The exhibition, “Icons in Transformation” by Ludmilla Pawlowska, continues in the cathedral until 19 July.