...groups of children are gathered together in my name, says the Lord, there I am in the midst of them
Yesterday was a remarkable day. For most of you it was incontrovertibly Tuesday, and for me too - but it was not just any Tuesday - is was 'school production Tuesday'. Those of you who read this blog more often than I do may remember the fondness I have for such events.
During the course of the day, it was my pleasure to witness no less than four schools perform productions, sing songs, play musical instruments, act, narrate, yell incomprehensibly into a microphone and tell stories - including the Passion, death and Resurrection of Our Lord. For the Early Years at St. Mary's CE School, it was the day when they gave us Red Riding Hood, and for the older kids from St. Mary's, the even bigger kids from Mandeville Secondary School, the tiny-weenies from St. Joseph's RC Infant School and the moderately pint-sizeds from Tilehurst Combined School, they all came to the church to read and sing 'Resurrection Rock' (or, as one youngster had written on a flyer that he had designed in class - 'Resuscitation Rock'). They sang their hearts out and read perfectly (and in an 800 year old barn that makes the Tate Modern seem like a garden shed is an achievement in itself for little ones). I should note that this would not have happened at all save for the vision and skill of the excellent Brian Dipple.
I do not care what anyone says about the world, the state of the church, the erosion of respect in the young - where children are able to come together and sing their hearts out, play such wonderful music, read the difficult account of a murder and a miracle - then for my money the world is a happy and hopeful place. Dear readers, it was stunning. Three-hundred children from the ages of 5 to 19, singing with one voice, with passion - that is about as good as it gets for me. The smallest and least inhibited children engaged with the sentiments of the story, and even pulled instinctive sneers at the cries of 'Crucify Him'. The look of joy in their faces in the final reprise when singing 'He's Alive' was enough to move me near to tears, and again as I recall it now. I have said it before; children embody such perfect freedom of worship. They convey emotion in a way I wish that I could by simply the light in their faces.
I could leave it there, but a couple of things amused me yesterday. The first is the innate comedy timing that the tiniest of children have. The little lad playing the wolf in Red Riding Hood hammed it up perfectly. He had us in stitches. He had no inhibition, and just played to the crowd. I believe that he is still just 4 years old. Secondly, a lesson for us Anglicans when inviting our Roman Catholic friends in - remember their Lord's Prayer is not the same as ours. I lead the prayers for Resurrection Rock, and as is my custom, asked that they be concluded with the Lord's Prayer. The tiny-weenies from St. Joseph's are clearly drilled in this prayer so it was like flicking a switch. 'Our ... Father ... who ... art ... in ... heaven ... hallowed ... be ... thy ... name ... thy ... kingdom ... come ...', and so on. Except they don't do the bit at the end, do they. No embolism for them. Just as I was about to utter (with microphone and ceremonial dignity) 'For thine is the Kingdom', eighty tiny-weenies, as one, yelped their 'Amen' and cut me dead. How I didn't corpse, I shall not know, but it amused the gathering no end.
Such a wonderful, hopeful, enjoyable day. Watching the creative talents of over 400 kids, and the faces of their parents and supporters - nothing is better than that. Nothing at all.