This evening’s service at St Mary’s was one of quiet contemplation and reflective music. It featured the debut of “Seven Last Words” by Jonathan Rathbone; seven pieces centred around Christ’s last words on the cross. Taking words from Hymns Ancient and Modern, Jonathan wrote seven original pieces of music set for SSA choir. Each piece was framed with readings from the Gospels telling the story of the Passion, interspersed with poems read by Rev. Nigel Anstey who led the service, and four congregational hymns (including The Old Rugged Cross, which only ever seems to make an outing for funerals).
The music was a joy to sing, and was received very well by the congregation. I’ve often felt that people seem to thin of the Christmas Choral Carol Service as being the highlight of the choral year at St Mary’s but really, that honour should go to the Good Friday services, and people who attend the Christmas service and not Good Friday are really missing out on what is, to my mind, the most beautiful and meaningful choral service of the year. You may disagree – but I know which one resonates and stays with me longer. The quiet contemplation of Good Friday and the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday between them embody the very heart of the meaning of Christianity and, indeed, are the very reason for attending church.
Christmas may seem the start of the story, but the Passion and Resurrection are at the heart of the church. Without the Resurrection, the Gospel would merely have been dismissed as the teachings of one itinerant rabbi amongst thousands. By the Resurrection the Gospel – and we – are given life.