The guest Minister at the Festal Choral Evensong Harvest Service on Sunday night at St Columb’s Cathedral, Canon David Crooks, has praised the standard of worship at the historic church, saying it was “of the very highest possible quality according to the Book of Common Prayer, supported by music of the very best standard”.
Using the harvest theme of ‘gathering’ for his sermon, he said the word had considerable significance and related not just to the harvest of the land or sea, but it also related to urban areas and all of the commercial activities.
Complementing the Cathedral on the wonderful and imaginative way in which the building was decorated for Harvest, he praised the imaginative and creative work of the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Dr William Morton,
“I also commend the wonderful achievements which you have accomplished under the leadership of the Dean, in full co-operation with the Select Vestry, and generously supported by the people, and by such organisations as the Friends of the Cathedral, and by generous grants, and the people of this city, in having this entire building re-pointed inside and out, and such a grand four manual organ, one of the best in these islands, are in themselves a harvest. It is a harvest of God’s guidance under his gathered people, aiming high with a clear vision and a goal in view, going for it and achieving it.
“There is yet another harvest which we might consider, the harvest of liturgy and worship, in which music plays such an important role, for it is after all, the gathering of the people for the worship of Almighty God.”
Paying tribute to Dr Martin Neary, former organist of Westminster Abbey, who arranged the music for the service, Canon Crooks said it was is a fine tribute to you and the Dean that you can attract such prestigious people, not to mention other people in other fields, not least the Bishop of London and Bishop Richard Holloway.
“Westminster Abbey has been a place of Christian worship for over 1,000 years. During its long history, it has witnessed the coronation of many Kings and Queens, and the comings and goings of the nation’s most famous people in all walks of national life, as well as producing and performing the best music ever written. Indeed, I remember standing at the grave of my favourite composer, George Frederick Handel in Poets’ Corner, and marvelling that beneath my feet lay the bones of the man who wrote the Messiah and all that other glorious music.
“Indeed, Dr Neary sang as a chorister in Westminster Abbey on the occasion of The Queen’s coronation. Places like Westminster Abbey set the example for all that is the very best in the conduct of the divine worship of Almighty God in liturgy and music.
“On this earth, there can be few places where the music of the great composers is better performed, to a standard of perfection, echoing the music that is constantly performed in the worship of God before the throne in Heaven. St Columb’s Cathedral also takes great pride in maintaining the highest standards of liturgy and music.
“Unfortunately, these standards are not being maintained in an increasing number of our churches. The sacred liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer is being diminished and even replaced in many churches.
“The decent people of the Church of Ireland love the Book of Common Prayer with its beautiful prose and cadences. There are no age barriers to this affection. I have conducted worship from time to time in churches where the Prayer Book has been reduced or abandoned, and told afterwards by many in the congregation how glad they were to have the Prayer Book again. Indeed, it could be demonstrated that churches are better attended where traditional worship is used than churches of a less formal and evangelistic style.
“Give me any day, 50 Anglicans worshipping with the Prayer Book with reverence. If we do our very best with what we have then that is what matters to God.
“Faith and works are inextricably bound together. We worship Almighty God to the best of our ability with the resources at our disposal, and then, go forth from our worship to the service of God: Thus is the Harvest gathered.”