All the Livelong Day

Very commonly, people find it hard to get a handle on how St Mary’s hangs together and I suspect it is because of days like today.

No-one gets to see everything that is going on. The organisation of it all is a series of interlocking systems which, by some miracle, mostly work well together.

I don’t see everything either, but it is part of my role to keep sight of the bigger picture.

The day will have begun before 8 am this morning when one of the servers arrived to open up and get the church ready for the 8.30 am service. That’s the 1970 liturgy. Most of our Sunday liturgies in St Mary’s are traditional language services, something that would surprise most people and indeed would probably surprise most people who come here. This morning the Bishop was celebrating at 8.30 and so I wasn’t needed on the scene until about 10 am. Again, it would be unusual for most churches to have a day when the vast majority of the congregation was unaware that it happened to be a day that the Bishop was around and leading a service, yet that is quite normal round here.

Between the 8.30 and the 10.30 the choir are in warming up and practising. I tend to do all their warm-ups with them as it opens out my voice for the day. Having had some trouble a couple of years ago with my voice which led to months of speech therapy, I’m quite anxious to look after it.

Whilst choir practice is underway, the servers appear and begin to set up for the service – silverware that has been polished yesterday is all laid out. The video camera for the sermon is put up. The stewards start to arrive and the clergy move outside to welcome the faithful.

It was a good crowd today with lots of unknown faces – lots of new people to meet. Some passing through, some as usual, clearly looking for something.

After that service there are a host of people waiting to see me and whilst the congregation is having tea and coffee someone comes to set up for the next event which is the Yorkhill Children’s Hospital Bereavement service. It is one of the most important services in Glasgow this weekend and organised completely by the Yorkhill chaplains. Someone helping them has a lot of technology to set up at the front.

Towards the end of that service, there is a clergy meeting in my office. After that I dash into church to rehearse with the choir before Evensong. It was a set of responses that I didn’t quite remember and so rehearsing them is important. Somehow the tech stuff from the afternoon service has disappeared and everything is as it should be for Choral Evensong at 6.30 pm. It is wonderful and lush and lovely. Seemingly from out of nowhere we get And the Glory from Handel’s Messiah. Obviously it isn’t out of nowhere and has been diligently prepared, but I didn’t know it was on tonight and love being in its midst. We also get People Look East and I meditate on the notion of setting every hill and valley humming and imagine the hills and the valleys humming away with us in tune with the choir.

Somewhere in the middle of the day I catch up on reading a fascinating article about whether clergy preside or celebrate. Well worth a look for anyone interested in liturgy. (I’ve always rather disliked the idea of presiding whilst celebrating turns work into a party).

After Evensong the congregation splits four ways. Some go home, some (mostly choir) go to the pub, the weekly student group meets in the hall and some go into town to service the tea run for those who are down on their luck. I choose the pub – the first time I’ve had chance to have a drink with choir members and hangers on for weeks.

At the end of the day, I’m very conscious of how few people would have been aware of the whole. It is beyond any one person’s comprehension and the more that is going on, the more it gets like that.

As I leave to come home, I lock up with the Vice Provost and wink at the icon of our Lady. As I leave, the lights go out and I swear I see her wink back. She doesn’t miss much and has seen more of the comings and goings of today than anyone.


  1. Margaret of the Sea of Galilee says

    Which icon type is your one? I have Our Lady Hodegetria as mine.
    Yes, Our Mother’s eyes can get wickedly twinkly when She is reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously…

  2. I must learn to read more carefully. I thought your day ended by locking up the ViceProvost, and wondered what he had done to deserve it.

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