The husband and I went into Coventry to get out of the house for the afternoon, planned to meet up in time to go to our friends’ house, and went our separate ways. Because I always like to, I headed over to the Cathedral- whether to pray or just look at it for a while I wasn’t sure, but I planned to be on my way in under twenty minutes. I slipped into the new building (the Old Cathedral, as its known, was bombed out during the Blitz and remains a beautiful shell beside the new one) and saw hymnals set out for the Choral Evensong service. Worried that I’d be in the way or interrupt when I got up to leave, I asked the woman at the desk when it would start. “4 o’clock,” she told me, going on to say I could get “Surround sound” if I went up to the nave.
“Oh I just wanted to know so I could be out of the way, I won’t be here long.” She looked at me and smiled very pleasantly, but what she must have been thinking I don’t know, because I soon found out it was about two minutes to four at the very most. I went up to a seat quite far into the nave, so I could look at a beautiful images in the Chapel of Gethsemane, which are done all in golds. I knelt and prayed and looked around to admire the beauty of the place, and then a group of people in blue and white robes trooped in, directed by a man in purple and grey and light brown with a staff. The empty parts of the room then filled with organ music, and I found myself standing with the other five or so congregants for the beginning of the Evensong service.
I stayed for the whole service, nearly an hour. It was beautiful and felt very medieval, particularly with the verger* directing everyone- whenever someone had a reading to do, he’d process (to call it walking doesn’t bring up the right image) over to them and lead them to the lectern or wherever they needed to be, and then afterwards lead them back to their seats.
I felt like I’d been given a gift, a blessing, to be part of the service so unexpectedly. It wasn’t, I think, anything particularly to do with Advent, but it felt like a right and proper start to the season.
*I don’t know what the root of “verger” is, but it always makes me think of the French “berger”- shepherd; of course “shepherd” is a theme in much of the Gospels, but watching everyone being led around by that one man yesterday made it seem a very apt association. Of course, if I’m wrong about what a verger’s job is then this is only so much waffling.