Having visited Dublin, Achill Island, Londonderry, Sligo, Westport, Belfast, and Glasgow, I figured Edinburgh would be no big deal.
I was wrong. Wow, was I wrong!
I was in no way prepared for the majesty of the ancient, medieval, Victorian, and modern cityscapes, the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. I was not anticipating the breathtaking views from numerous high points located across the city. Nor the presence of the annual Festival and – among other things – the constant and glorious whine of bagpipes as Kathryn and I strolled the cobblestone streets.
Nor was I ready for the impact of Monday’s Evensong at St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was 48 minutes of pure choral bliss, properly laced with profound scripture and provocative, grace-filled prayers for the world and the individual people who suffer long and struggle hard. To some extent, that would be all of us!
Having fairly recently opened the boy choir to girls, the famed St. Mary’s Choir is now a rich mixture of gender, race, culture, color, and style. The anthems, ever so tastefully selected, framed spoken word and silent meditation in such a way as to bring the listener to the vey gate of Heaven. Or so it certainly seemed.
At Evensong’s end, the students completed their recessional, lingered and loitered a bit in the narthex and eventually moved outside and next door to their school to drop off red and white robes and black folders. High school students, middle schoolers and children, along with a few guiding adults, relished some informal decompression time together along with whoever among the worshipers wished to speak with them along the way.
Is there any question that students with this kind of background and experience are more likely to contribute to community than those who spend their young lives only consuming: constant pop music, jiving to rap, clicking video games by the hour, constantly texting and Facebook-ing within an inch of their lives? I believe there is little doubt as to the answer.
Two modest plaques, neither big nor fancy and hung quite un-prominently on the side of the chancel, gave understated recognition to two of St. Mary’s faithful choral directors. One had served from 1888 to 1928, and the other from 1929 to 1976. When we do the math on these and consider their contexts, these two directors served combined terms of almost a century in that place in the midst of two world wars and no telling what other lesser challenges.
After experiencing yesterday’s Evensong, I would say these two directors’ tenacious investments have generated powerful and eternal dividends!
As current directors of student choirs, we have no statistics telling us how many kids will “sit still” for this kind of focus, artistry, beauty-building, and leadership training. One thing we know for sure, however; whatever students will, in fact, give themselves to this counterculture of beauty-celebrating, scripture-learning, ministry-giving, music-making, and God-following need more good teachers to provide them leadership, training, support, and guidance. They need us!
My hunch? There are far more kids capable of this experience and willing to try than we might initially think. The real shortage is among the community of truly committed directors. May our tribe in increase, both in numbers and in quality of vision.
Still basking in the beauty,