REMEMBERING WHERE WE’VE COME FROM – reflection – informs where we’re going. I’ve been so grateful recently to old friends David & Irene Lee (Irene was my Sunday School teacher!) who have become involved in helping to facilitate the installation of an 1892 “Father” Henry Willis Organ in the Cathedral at Leiden in the Netherlands. Grateful because they and a sizeable number of their friends, myself included, think of that organ in some sense as “ours”, its having been built for, and housed until 1991, in the Church, St Mark, Claughton, Birkenhead, that mothered us in the Christian faith. It has been lovely to share memories with friends. Some treasured photographs made by several people have been drawn together here.
I remember the grief I felt when, holding my then very young middle child Rachel’s hand, I gazed upon the demolished ruins of this house of prayer I’d loved long and well. And the grief came back to me a hundredfold as I worked, years later, as Vicar of another community who had to face up to the closure of their long-loved parish church. And on both occasions I recalled the grief of a whole nation – a whole religious culture – upon the loss, twice over, of the Temple in Jerusalem. Such grief and attendant tears cause wincing even today. But the day will come, please God, when Leiden Cathedral will be blessed with the magisterial music heard once upon a time in St Mark’s Birkenhead. Some things live on. The Divine is greater by far than the form of bricks and stones. There is, indeed, (and I’m heartily grateful to the C of E’s Common Worship for reminding us) such a thing as “the silent music of his praise”. God wills that yesterday, today and tomorrow are to be all of a piece.
Not long before I left Salisbury & Wells Theological College (of equally blessed memory!) in 1982, my then group tutor, the Reverend Bryan Pettifer, wrote to me:
I have valued the honour in which you hold those who have mothered you in the faith.
I do. We should.
God be praised for the life, ministry and music of the priests and people of St Mark, Claughton, Birkenhead.