Friday, 2 October 2015

‘Let my people go’ …
‘Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer’

In Christ Church Cathedral before Choral Evensong last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I brought a group of BEd students from the Mater Dei Institute of Education on a tour of Christ Church Cathedral yesterday afternoon, before lectures in the South Transept Chapel introducing the module on Anglicanism.

It was a bright sunny afternoon outside, providing an ideal setting for introducing the place of the cathedral and its story in the history of Viking and Mediaeval Dublin.

Later, at 6 p.m., as a canon of the cathedral, I led Choral Evensong, with a film crew recording the service and the cathedral for a new Failte Ireland film on the life of the cathedral.

It was an interesting evening to choose to film Choral Evensong from a tourism perspective, for there was large than usual congregation of 84, boosted by a large group of visitors from Houston, Texas, who are on a tour of Ireland.

The Preces and Responses were sung to a setting by Bernard Rose (1916-1996), and the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to the setting of the Evening Service in C by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924).

The New Testament reading (Galatians 3: 2329) reminded us that in Christ “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28). It was a reading that resonated with what was perhaps the most moving part of Choral Evensong last night, when the choir sang as the anthem a setting of the Negro Spiritual ‘Go down, Moses’ by Sir Michael Tippett (1905=1998).

This Anthem, with its haunting petition in the words ‘Let my people go,’ speaks of the liberation of the oppressed, which was so appropriate on the day in the Calendar of the Church [1 October] that recalls the life of Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, who died on 1 October 1885.

In the intercessions after that anthem, I prayed that this city would by inspired by the life and values of Shaftesbury, who gave his life to working on behalf of those who are denied full rights when it comes to housing, education, and decent working conditions in factories and industry and for vulnerable and abused children.

The anthem is also a moving description of a people fleeing oppression in the Middle East and North Africa, and so I prayed too for refugees fleeing war, violence, conflict and oppression in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea, and prayed too for the people of Italy and Greece who receive them, and the leaders of the member states of the European Union, that they may be guided into appropriate and compassionate responses.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Changing places ... a move in the chapter stalls Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)