Durham Cathedral – the Shrine of St Cuthbert

DSC07775I have a three month Sabbatical – which begs the question “what to do on Sunday?” On Low Sunday Julie and I were in Fort William, and we had a Sunday off. We drove to Ardnamurchan – 60 miles of single track road with passing places. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson and built in 1849. It now has an excellent cafe and visitors centre – very nice coffee. I climbed the lighthouse, chatted to the retired keeper and admired the view. The sea is “azure”, which is not a word often used about the Scottish sea!

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We also had a train ride to Mallaig, and photoed the Glenfinnan Viaduct – Sir Robert MacAlpine 1897/8.

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DSC07896A week later my plan was 10 am Choral Mattins at Durham Cathedral. Being a boring traditionalist I love Choral Mattins, but it is a rare beast now (does any church in Newcastle Diocese ever sing it?). Unfortunately I didn’t set the alarm, and overslept. I left Ponteland at 9.59 (waving at those who would just arrive in St Mary’s on time), got to Durham, and had time for tea and scrambled egg in the Cafe on the Green.

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11.15 am Sung Eucharist instead. A friendly welcome, and a couple of hundred plus worshipping. Average congregation certainly younger than Ponteland – OK, in a University City you should be able to attract a young congregation, but it suggests to me that beautiful, quiet and formal has a place in today’s Church of England.

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The setting was William Byrd’s Mass in 5 Parts, with the Merbecke Creed, a Bach Motet to start with, and a Bach voluntary immediately after the sermon (time to sit and think). The communion motet was Tantum ergo by Bruckner, and Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C was the final voluntary. Beautifully sung and played, servers choreography exact too, Psalm 116 sung as the Gospel was Processed, and lovely musical acclamations, fully printed out and easy to pick up. Three hymns – “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine” to Engleberg (Stanford’s marvellous tune), “Alleluia, alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise” by Christopher Wordsworth. Wikipedia describes him as a “Bishop and Man of Letters” – is the 21st century equivalent “Blogger”? He was the founder of Lincoln Theological College – of blessed memory. A good Wesley sing to finish with “Ye servants of God your master proclaim”, and an invitation to coffee.

DSC07894The Dean’s sermon was excellent too. Michael Sadgrove, who on his blog calls himself Decanus Borealis (Northern Dean). His latest post comments on the Archers “Real life at Ambridge” and his teenage shock when Jennifer told Lillian she was pregnant and unmarried. Being a little younger than the Dean I can remember my teenage shock when Shula Archer’s boyfriend said “I’ve always wanted to make love in a cornfield” and she replied “You had better get the blanket from the back of the car.” Dum di dum di, diddle diddle dum … . Anyway, the Dean’s sermon, starting with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and linking beautifully to the Road to Emmaus, will be on the Durham Cathedral’s sermon webpage shortly. Another job to do on sabbatical is read his book Landscapes of Faith.

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