Archive for October, 2007

Harvest Festival – a popular festival

October 19, 2007

Harvest Festival Songs of Praise last Sunday evening in Ely Cathedral was an uplifting and impressive act of worship. The Cathedral had been wonderfully decorated for the occasion. The range of autumnal colours was most impressive. The worship blended traditional and modern. The event was not nostalgic. It appealed to both young and old. Harvest gifts were presented in style.

Harvest Festival remains a popular event in the calendar of many churches and schools. People clearly understand what it is about – giving thanks for food and creation. No other church festival does this so clearly. The obvious connection between presenting gifts and the Eucharist means that this festival can encourage Eucharistic worship and Eucharistic living.

It is therefore unfortunate if unimaginative clergy pour scorn on this popular festival. Harvest is a festival to which people can be easily invited and thus become a special service of welcome or evangelism. I suspect more people will make the effort to come to church for Harvest than will for, say, the Feast of St Philip and St James.

At a time when the Church of England is looking at the connection between its worship and the culture of the people it may be appropriate for a fresh look at harvest. The liturgical books of the Church of England could produce more provision and ideas for observing this festival.

Ely Cathedral are to be congratulated for their hard work and example in working with, rather than against, this popular English festival.


A Visit to St Mary’s, Primrose Hill

October 8, 2007

A couple of former students recently took me to the outstanding ‘First Emperor’ exhibition at the British Museum. As they lived near Hampstead, and had invited me for afternoon tea, I prevailed upon them to take me to visit St Mary’s, Primrose Hill.

It was a weekday afternoon, and what a pleasure to find the church open and being used. A class of primary school children was visiting, and other people were coming and going. I had visited the church many many years ago when the hymnwright George Timms was vicar. It now seemed quite different, and frankly more alive and less stuffy.

The church is actively reaching out to the local community, there was much reference to local schools, ‘All age worship’ is included in the parish schedule of worship and a Fresh Expressions form of worship has been introduced. Work with children seems to be a priority, and there was a lovely children’s area.

The church once had a reputation of being the Dearmer Parson’s Handbook flagship. As such it was visited by liturgical archaelogists. It was very refreshing to note that today there is very little of that arcane approach favoured by a certain type of single gentleman, who delights in liturgical minutiae at the expense of mission and outreach. (An approach Dearmer would surely have questioned).

Indeed it was good to note that most of the church officers came from the locality, only the head server comes from afar, and, curiously his photograph, of a rather unkempt gentleman, was in black and white whilst others were in colour – almost suggesting he belonged to a bygone era of the church.

The church had a feel of being a place of brightness, life and sincere worship, but also one which felt homely and used – a place where all felt welcome. The pool table in the aisle, and the tapestry covered sofa nearby supported the homely atmosphere.

One couldn’t help feeling the altar and chancel nowadays seems rather distant, a nave altar may be an asset.

The parish magazine, though well produced did not quite have the vigour and freshness which prevailed in the church itself, that was unfortunate, perhaps the editorial team could review content. Input from children and young people would be appropriate. Information about the Fresh Expressions ministry should be included. There was also some slight inconsistency about weekday worship times in different parts of the magazine.

In summary:

Well done to the priests and people of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill for creating a welcoming parish based church which preserves dignity and hospitality.