I had a meeting arranged this morning at St Catherine's with members of a bereaved family, to prepare for a funeral there in ten days time. When I went to unlock and let them in, I realised that none of the keys on the bunch I'd been given fitted the lock. I had to apologise, and go looking for the correct key. An hour later, we met again and start again. The family asked for a choir to sing at the service, as they thought nobody in the congregation would want to. On a working weekday, this is a difficult request to respond to. Children in choirs are at school, and many church choir singers will beat work, otherwise busy in retirement with a kinds of assignment. After last night's concert experience I looked at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama website and saw they have a variety of singers and musicians for hire. So I suggested the family approach the College administrator to see what might be possible.
It's a reflection of the times we live in that there aren't enough people active in church music making to ask if they could be free to fulfil a request like this, for which four to six people would be needed. We are fortunate to have a musical centre of excellence in the city. Yesterday, the funeral director I rode home with from Thornhill Crematorium, praised the contribution made to a funeral he'd conducted of a young harpist from the College. I hope their musicians will be able to help us on this occasion.
After the meeting I returned home and prepared the funeral service and emailed it to a family member, for information, and wrote a sermon for Sunday. At St German's, we'll be observing St Agnes Day, as the Parish once had a mission church dedicated to her, and still has a chapel with a St Agnes altar with an image of her, which will take pride of place in the nave during the Mass. It's a celebration that also means a lot to me, as my first incumbency in the St Paul's Area of East Bristol made me Vicar of St Agnes Church. This parish was founded as a mission to the artisan community by Clifton College on the other smarter side of the city, which served as a centre for education and community service of great distinction in the late Victorian era.
There's a similarity between the inhabitants of that part of Bristol and Adamsdown in the same period of history. Virgin martyrs honoured in the ancient Roman Canon of the Mass became, appeared in the dedications used in the outreach centres of the late Victorian church, as exemplars and role models of courage, dignity and faith, perhaps specifically directed to poor downtrodden women settlers in urban squalor, to encourage them to value themselves in God's eyes, and strive to make something good of their lives. And this was happening in the period that saw the rise of the suffragette movement.
For most of the day I avoided the news, and went for a longish walk around the park, enjoying the blue sky and sunshine, even more pleasant now sunset is nearly an hour later than it was before Christmas. I had no desire to watch the American Presidential Inauguration, being robbed of its inner worth and dignity by a man who has such contempt for the record of his predecessor and those of a host of wise and experienced people whose lifelong work has been in public service. They may not have been that successful at solving all of the many complex social and economic problems which have best the world over the past ten years of recession, but that's no reason to pour contempt upon them or dishonour them. Trump too will be judged by his record, and who knows what his disruptive unpredictable approach to governance might achieve for better or for worse in the coming years. God help America to survive with integrity and justice all that follows from here.