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The Rector's Message for the Week of February 6, 2022

The installation of chorister from January 30, 2022.

Dear Friends,

It was a joy to install three new choristers last Sunday and to welcome their families to church to participate in their proud moment. I reminded the new choristers that they may be junior now, but that in a few short years, they would be senior choristers and handing on all that they have learned to another group of young probationers. The RSCM Chorister prayer, which the choristers say after every service, contains the reason why liturgical music is not a performance such as on the secular stage:

Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts we may practice and show forth in our lives.

Yes singing makes a huge difference to telling the story of our faith. As Marty Haugen once said, a chorister “must know more than the notes,” and must know the context, the story, and the connection with the world in which we now live. Dr. Filsell is now teaching the choristers the Bach St. John Passion and asked Mother Turner and I to ensure that, when we teach the choristers, we deepen their awareness of that great piece and the way Bach is re-telling the story and connecting it with a life of faith. I guess that is putting into practice the idea that a chorister must ‘know more than the notes.’

On Sunday, HM Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 70th anniversary of her Accession to the throne. No British monarch has ever served so long, and if you think about the length of service that she has given, and the changes that she has witnessed in the world, it is quite remarkable. At a time when politicians all over the world are at odds with one another, and when scandal and inappropriate behavior dents the trust that the public have in elected officials (particularly in Britain at the moment), the Queen as a Head of State can rise above it and act as a sign of unity. As many of you know, although Britain has an hereditary monarchy, nevertheless, The Queen has always seen her role as fulfilling a vocation and answering a sacred calling. It is significant that, at the heart of the coronation service, the monarch removes the trappings of state in order to be anointed with Holy Oil.

The Queen wore a simple, plain white dress as the Archbishop prayed over her and anointed her. Then, she was dressed in vestments – cloth of gold vestments – a stole, a tunicle or dalmatic, and a cope, together with symbols of the faith. The wearing of the tunicle or dalmatic is a reminder that the monarch used to perform the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday and not just the Bishops acting, as it were, as a deacon. Certainly there are similarities between the coronation and ordination liturgies which, at their heart, have this sense of calling and affirmation of that calling.

On her 21st Birthday, in South Africa, Queen Elizabeth gave a speech in which she famously said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” Four years later, with the death of her father, King George VI, she became Queen. In her Christmas broadcast of 1952 she said, “pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.” And she has done her utmost to be faithful to those solemn promises ever since.

I am delighted that Mother Turner and I have been invited by the Subdean of the Chapel Royal to join him and other members of the Royal Household to take part in the four days of official celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee to be held in June. I feel very humbled that I have been invited to preach in the Chapel Royal in Saint James’s Palace at Evensong on Sunday, June 5th. I will be proud to see the name Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue on the Order of Service; I am sure the Eleventh Rector is smiling.

Visit the Royal Family Website and can discover more about Accession Day 1952.

Nico Muhly, composer

Finally, if you did not attend the concert on Thursday – An Evening with Nico Muhly – you missed some of the most poignant texts set to some of the most exquisite music that many of us have heard in recent years. I am told that the concert will be available on-demand soon, so we will share more about it then.

I look forward to seeing many of you in-person and on-line on Sunday,

Your Priest and Pastor,