Easter in London was a wondrous experience. I know that this will surprise those of you who know me well, but on Holy Saturday evening I attended a candlelight Bach concert at St. Martin’s in the Fields: the Easter Oratorio and the Magnificat.
While my taste in music is more towards Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Mose Allison, and Eva Cassidy—this presentation moved my spirit.
Then on Easter Day the community of St. Luke’s in Islington took me even deeper. The building looks like a traditional English parish from the outside, but inside it is one of the warmest and most hospitable churches I have worshiped in. Chairs were arranged in a horseshoe, with the Holy Table in the open space.
The chancel was used for art, and the priest and a laywoman led the worship from among us rather than over us. The congregation was multiracial, young and old. The choir was made up of 12 people, with ages that looked as if they ranged from 12 to 60, and they sounded like a well-rehearsed choral group of two dozen voices. They sang beautifully, and the songs were singable, even for me. Music at St. Mark’s is not a “sit back and enjoy the concert” time, but a time to let all voices join in joyful song.
The liturgy was both traditional and non-traditional: our first reading was “Resurrection: an Easter Sequence” by W.R. Rodgers, and following the Gloria we watched a video of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
The liturgical words were inclusive and inviting. For instance, The Confession: “Let us seek forgiveness for all we have failed to be and do as those who love God and her world (silence). When we can’t appreciate excellence without feeling inadequate; when we compare ourselves to the vibrance of others and in so doing diminish our own light; when we deny the wondrous image of God in us, believing ourselves to be lesser than our neighbor; good Lord forgive us.”
And the Affirmation of Faith: “We believe that horizons of hope are never fixed, they always move beyond in the creativity of God. We believe that powers of evil cannot kill God. God walks on free and leaps off our crosses in the risen Jesus Christ. We believe that the Spirit can never be confined. She dances in the world and is found in surprising places, leading us on until the end of time. ”