Two weeks from today, over two dozen choir singers and members of their families will be taking a guided tour of Canterbury Cathedral. We will see the site of the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who, in 1170, was stabbed to death for standing up for his faith against King Henry the Second. You can read more about Thomas Becket in this article.
In 1991, I was given the opportunity to attend a conference of Roman Catholic cathedral musicians held at the Vatican. Aside from visiting the Sistine Chapel and attending a Mass celebrated by John Paul II, we musicians were given a fascinating guided tour of the excavation under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the place where the remains of the apostle, Peter, are thought to have been buried. Standing in the excavated area under that high alter, listening to the story of Peter’s death at the hands of unbelieving Romans was one of the most moving moments in my life. I have never been to Canterbury, but I can well imagine the emotions of our group as we stand at the altar to hear the story of Becket’s martyrdom. More about Canterbury Cathedral can be found here.
On Sunday, July 27 [in Canterbury], we will sing the beautiful words of poet, Michael Dennis Browne, set to music by American composer, Stephen Paulus. We sang this anthem for worship here in March:
Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify You,
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.
Glory to the father,
and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.
Both now and forever,
And unto ages and ages. Amen.
Aside from our regular choir rehearsals this season, there have been more than 25 hours of additional rehearsal in order to prepare for the six services we will lead in Canterbury Cathedral later this month. I would like to express my gratitude to our singers and to all those (family and staff) who have helped us to organize some very sacred time in a very sacred place.