We celebrate an annual requiem in St Mary’s to remember the souls of those who have died. It is on All Souls’ Day each year and that’s today, 2 November. The service takes place at 7.30 tonight.

It is a service where people come to remember others who have died. We remember them in our intercessions and also stand alongside one another in acknowledgement that grief is real and raw and that we are all touched by it somehow. Praying together in this way has immense power to heal.

The music is a great part of what we offer for this remembrance. Tonight it is the much loved Fauré Requiem.

People often know the Fauré Requiem from Classic FM or concert hall performances. However, it was written for a purpose and makes most sense in its proper context – a service for those who have died. I’ve known the music since I did my music O Level at school when it was one of the pieces we studied.

That was my first introduction to the Western rite in any form. I’d never encountered liturgical worship and found it incredibly difficult to relate the music to what might happen in church. Classes had to begin by explaining what a kyrie and a sanctus was. It was all news to me. Praying for the dead was not simply news to me it was an abomination to me.

Now I find this business to be of the greatest kindness. To remember with as much love and compassion as God gives us, those who have died whom we remember and to stand alongside others who are doing the same is to stand in a garden when gospel flowers bloom.

Tonight we remember those who have died by name and the names remain on the High Altar (with the exception of the dark Triduum time in Holy Week) until next All Souls’ Day. If you are coming to the service tonight but have forgotten to include a name, then they can still be emailed to the office up until 2 pm today.

Keeping the Feasts

I’ve always had something of a penchant for keeping the festivals of the Christian year with a certain amount of panache.

This weekend, at which we have celebrated All Saints and All Souls has been my kind of weekend. By gently nudging a number of events together on one weekend, we had the most extraordinary couple of days of heaven in ordinary time.

The Rev Richard Coles joined us to lead a workshop and to preach. One of the things he did on Saturday was to produce a beautiful old icon of the madonna and child and ask us to think about all the things that she had seen as the icon had been passed from hand to hand around Europe. I found myself on Sunday realising that it was only the figures on the murals in St Mary’s who have seen all that has been done over this weekend. No one pair of human eyes has seen everything.

John Bell and James MacMillan were with us on Saturday evening to animate an evening of prayer, singing and music that mattered. They are both extraordinary people and to have them working together with an eclectic congregation from here, there and everywhere was holy and humbling.

All of that took place amongst the Stations of Grace exhibition. A local member of the West End ACTS (ie Action for Churches Together in Scotland) had persuaded and cajoled local congregations to commission or borrow artworks on the theme of grace. The building was open. And eyes and hearts were open too. Particular memories were of Gerard Burns’s picture of members of his family walking with the cross and the video installation from Graham Lynch which people had to walk through.

Back to church with the crowds on Sunday morning for the All Saints Eucharist – the exhibition having been struck and removed overnight. The feast was kept with pomp, tassles and good humour. And then back in the evening for a new liturgical day as we kept All Souls, remembering those who have died. The music was Rutter’s Requiem sung by a choir which has given its all right through the weekend.

All Souls is primarily a liturgical act of kindness. We remembered with as much affection as we could. We worshipped in the presence of the saints, praying for all souls, surrounded by the love of God and reminded of the grace of God which drenches us. A single work of art from the exhibition on grace hung over our worship, one layer of what we have done this weekend punctuating another.

Layer upon layer. Feast upon feast. Blessing upon blessing. Alleluia upon alleluia.

My thanks to all.