The service itself began after we sang three spirituals. The U.S. Amabassador, Louis Susman, and his wife were escorted in while we sang “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”. The hymn ends with the words “Come, ten thousand angels, come” and I felt like they were there in that lofty dome of St. Paul’s – as if they were built into the architecture itself.
We were then officially welcomed by the Dean of the Cathedral (who is also the ex officio Dean of the Order of the British Empire). The text of his welcome was printed in the order of service, but he added the phrase “Welcome to those…….from Glendale church.” That stunned me. I’m not one who exalts celebrity or values someone because of their status, but being welcomed by ‘name’ by the Dean of one of the most famous churches in the world was quite a thrill. It gave me a sense of what it might feel like to hear God say my name. Okay, that might be going a bit far, but I was giddy.
And then we sang a piece written by Scott Stroman, our director – in 7/8 and 7/4 – in Latin. Not an easy piece! “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Laudamus te.” which means “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all. We praise you.”
The “Canon in Residence” who is in charge of the music in the cathedral read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. The part that I heard deep in my soul was: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” This one of the reasons I started this blog.
Our next hymn was “For the Beauty of the Earth” which made me cry. This was not what I expected. I knew I’d cry during the service, I even dreamt about it the night before, but this is not what I thought would trigger the tears. It happened during the fourth verse: “For the joy of human love, Brother, Sister, Parent, Child. Friends on earth and friends above” I was suddenly filled with the awareness of my family and friends in the states and those that have passed away and felt their love and support. For that I am truly, deeply, profoundly thankful.
Please know that right then and there in that place filled with such a rich history of faith, in the presence of God and 2,000 people, with tears streaming down my face, I thanked God for you all.
After I pulled myself together, the next scripture reading was by the Area Director of Young Life (Yes, they have Young Life in England). She read Philippians 4:4-9 and when she said “The Lord is near,” I believed her. In the majesty of St. Paul’s, I felt the God of the universe draw near.
What happened next? Read about it here.