Thursday, 26 March 2009

Durham 3

More good things lie ahead today with Tom Wright's keynote on "Bible, Worship Mission in an Ecumenical Context" followed by Philip Roderick on "Sounding the Sacred". Then the conference will gather round the tables for a final meal together.
However, Evensong at the Cathedral will be my treat before a meal somewhere in the city centre and my last evening in Durham before returning to Belfast in the morning.
There was, as usual, a great deal to think about yesterday. John Bell spent a couple of hours exploring "Singing the Scripture" - half of the time reflecting on the Psalms and the next hour divided between Canticle, Scriptural Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
"How has your childhood hymnody influenced your adult life?" When you think about the hymns from school, Sunday School etc. - how has their content moulded how we see God, how we view other people and how we see ourselves? John encouraged us to wonder just how much the favourite of SS "God is always near me..." becomes a terrifying, spookey thought rather than the comforting one that it is probably meant to convey?
We laughed as John described trying to sing 150 Psalms in the one style is like trying to fit 150 ladies into the one sized corset! The various moods and emotions demand different ways of singing to bring out clearly the Psalmist's thoughts. We need, I think, to break out of the straightjackets that we've constructed and embrace a wide range of styles...holding onto what is good and adding other, equally good, forms.
Anne Dyer's workshop on the use of fine art in worship explored how art can be illustration, a narrative tool, encourage theological reflection and also be a hermeneutic key. On the feast day of the annunciation the talk was illustrated by many images of Gabriel and Mary - the hour flew past too quickly!
So this conference has given much food for thought and a notebook full of jottings on which I'll reflect over the next few weeks and months. Conversations too with clergy who bring vast experience has been another important feature. As we share together around the tables and in the lounges there's a great sense of unity of purpose and enjoyment of being servants of the Lord.
Once again the day has dawned clear and the sun always shining in Durham? The Cathedral bell is calling together the community for the Eucharist, movement in Cranmer Hall indicates that others are now awake and preparing for the day and the smell of freshly brewed coffee suggests that breakfast is not far away...

The prayer for today:

Blessed are you, Sovereign God, King of the nations,
to you be praise and glory for ever!
From the rising of the sun to its setting
your name is proclaimed in all the world.
As the Son of Righteousness dawns in our hearts,
anoint our lips with the seal of your Spirit
that we may witness to your gospel
and sing your praise in all the world,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever.

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