The editor of the blog has asked me to give a report of our recent choir tour to England. I decided, at the very least, to give it a “recruiting” spin.
Let your annual big event deliver once in a lifetime experiences! Exceptional memories will help encourage students who are IN choir to stay there, and encourage those who “missed it” not to ever miss it again!
One of the great recruiting tools for each year becomes the big event, in some of the other blogs I have given ways to enhance that effectiveness.
Those of us who have been at their churches for a long time (32 years for me) have the incredible experience of having a 30 or 40 something year old man or woman coming up on a Sunday and saying “I will never forget that time when we were on the choir tour to San Francisco when we sang at the . . . .” and the life changing story unfolds. Many times they are standing there with their children hearing the story of something meaningful that happen to their Mom or Dad.
I want to tell you about one of the most powerful moments from our recent trip to England.
A side note here, if you have never travelled internationally with your choir consider England as a possibility. It is expensive, but worth the time and trouble. Americans have a natural “connection” to England and it helps that we are, indeed, “separated by a common language.”
The high school students (with adult sponsors) were divided into 8 teams to do mission work at various locations. Four teams were in Birmingham proper, one team in Shrewsbury (near Wales) and three teams working in Coventry.
Having teams working in Coventry gave us a natural “in” for a huge concert there in the heart of the city. Since BBC Coventry found it curious that 75 high school students from Texas were coming to town, they gave me a live interview on radio the day before the concert.
We were set for a great evening!
When I sang in Coventry Cathedral in 1985 with our Adult Choir from Tallowood, I determined that some day I wanted to bring the high school students to experience this remarkable place.
As we gathered to prepare for the concert we took the picture that you see above. It was there that I told them the story of the cathedral. My story went something like this.
On the night of November 14, 1940 German planes bombed the city and the cathedral with incendiary bombs designed to do the greatest destruction possible. They were not trying to kill people as much as destroy the beautiful city and especially its Cathedral.
Just days before, the western allies had broken the “Enigma” code that the Germans used to communicate with their various military forces.
In an odd twist, Winston Churchill, knowing that the bombing was coming, had to remain silent. Had he evacuated the city, or moved anti-aircraft battalions in to protect the Cathedral, the Germans would have known that the code had been broken and the value of that piece of military intelligence would be lost.
In one of the hardest decisions of his tenure as Prime Minister, he had to let the cathedral be bombed.
The next morning, the Provost (Priest) at the time, climbed the tower adjacent to the destroyed cathedral and saw the destruction in the smoldering ruins, but he also saw a charred cross formed by two of the beams that had fallen from the ceiling.
He took that as a sign from God and declared that instead of being angry and seeking vengeance, the people of Coventry should forgive the Germans for this act. He led the city to be a place of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The world noticed that unusual reaction, and the distinctiveness of the Cathedral began.
Three options were put forward in early 1941. First, finish what the Germans began, tear it down and build a new cathedral. Second, show the Germans that they can’t shake British resolve and build the exact cathedral over again in the exact place.
Third, (and this one WON) leave the burned out shell as a reminder of the destruction of war and the power of forgiveness. Let’s build another cathedral right beside it. It would be a physical representation of “Good Friday” and “Easter” side by side.
In 1962 the Queen of England dedicated the new Cathedral to the Glory of God; and it is in that new cathedral that we are about to sing.
Don’t ever forget this night. Don’t every forget the power of forgiveness and reconciliation in your life. Sing tonight as a reminder of that power and the Savior who made it personal for you.
We walked from the burned out cathedral into the “new” one to sing.
That night in the concert as we sang Dan Forest’s anthem, “Benedictus—Blessed is the Lord” the eyes of the singers danced as they heard the music in a place where the meaning of every word, and the beauty of every note resonated together like never before.
Will those singers remember that night?
I think they will.