The logistics of getting to the Cathedral for the Eucharist were no small thing, but it was managed most effectively with vast numbers of coaches manoeuvring through narrow Canterbury streets. The University, where we’re staying, was awash with purple, but as we lined up to process into the cathedral this changed into a sea of scarlet. To state the obvious, it was very colourful!
Canterbury Cathedral is an awesome place – majestic and beautiful. The music was wonderful and varied with the organ enhanced by a brass group, and the choir accompanied by African percussion for the setting for the Eucharist, the ‘Missa Luba’, a version of the Latin Mass based on traditional Congolese songs for the Eucharist. During the Giving of Communion, the Choir sang ‘O sacrum convivium!’ (O Sacred Banquet) with words by St Thomas Aquinas, and music by Gabriel Jackson (b.1962) which was exquisite. This was followed by ‘Loquebantur variis linguis apostolic, alleluia’ (The apostles spoke in many tongues, alleluia) by Thomas Tallis.
The liturgy used at least six languages apart from English. And a highpoint in the drama was the Gospel Procession accompanied by a dance by the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters.
The preacher was the Right Reverend Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo, who spoke from 2 Corinthians 12.9, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ Commenting on the Anglican Communion, he noted that, ‘The crisis is complex - it is not a crisis that can be resolved instantly. He called for self-scrutiny, for unity and diversity, and for articulating a prophetic voice. He spoke with a quiet authority and insight and I particularly appreciated his comment that inevitably the prophetic voice is boring, relentlessly boring, it has to be said again and again. And also it isn’t self-serving. A great opener – Sri Lanka has five major religions: - Bhuddism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and cricket!
We left at 9.00 a.m. and made it back for 2.00 p.m. so it was something of a marathon. And though it was nothing like my normal Sunday experience of worship (nor most people’s I guess), it was a deeply meaningful experience and one that I won’t forget.