Sunday, August 07, 2011

Grey day transfigured

Holy Trinity church
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
It's a grey morning. I'm already damp because my umbrella was in the car and I had to fight my way down the drooping garden so my legs are uncomfortable and I'm already chilled. As we swish up the back streets of Dunoon to church, I wonder what I'm doing. My mood matches the day; most of my summer activities are over; the sun has gone. I'd have been better staying in bed with a book. The organist seems in no better fettle, and I forgot to tell him we are supposed to be keeping the Transfiguration, so we don't really speak. Besides, we're a bit late.

There is no heating in church - it is, after all, summer - as I sort out hymnbook and liturgy (thank God - not the Grey Book). There are also no children, as the Rector is on holiday and has taken Mrs Rector who does the Godly play at the back of the church. Apart from some scraping and banging from the rear, later revealed as "sorting the electrics for the coffee", it is relatively quiet as the organ music begins. I recognise the music after the opening, drifting notes: the organist is improvising on a modern/traditional scottish folk tune. It is absolutely, heart-rendingly beautiful.

I am plainly not alone in thinking this. I hear a whisper from somewhere behind me: Ohhh - that's lovely. And a stillness falls on the people, even those who are still arriving. Prayer is suddenly possible, distraction and restlessness quietened by the lilting line, and I am glad I have come. Even when the music enters a dark, sombre place it seems entirely appropriate (I subsequently learn that the organist was distracted by the thundering down the aisle of Someone on A Mission and had to go where a wrong note took him) and the melody emerges, intact and serene, just in time for the final quiet cadence.

I am now in a place where anything can happen; the gloom has been dispelled and the transfiguration is possible. And reflecting on the experience, and the prayers and farewells and greeting of long-missed friends that took place when the Mass was over, I note that we need this variety. We need joy and noise and exuberance, and we need silence and mystery.

And somehow, in the profound silence, there is music at the very heart of things.


  1. What a beautiful, reflective post. i could almost hear the music and know just what you mean about the way it can transform atmosphere and enable prayer. Thank you.

  2. As someone who is delighted to use my talents as organist, I must say it is lovely to hear people comment in positive ways about church music. Sometimes it is a simple, but effective, device to improvise and thus contribute to creating an atmosphere for worship. Simply put - it's how a musician can serve God. Often we are so busy thinking about the next hymn, acclamation etc, us organists can mentally miss chunks of the spoken worship and arrive at the communion rail in a none too contemplative manner. I find the mid-week Communion a God-send; I attend without having to play and this is my personal time of worship.

    Colleen Anderson