Being invited to attend a Service yesterday at Westminster Abbey to celebrate thanksgiving for a girl's school, the original trustees of which could be traced back to 1698, was a privilege. Being given a wonderful place in the choir stalls, labelled "Headmaster's Pew" was slightly confusing as I know the school's head, who is a lady, quite well. Perhaps the "Headmaster" title referred to the Abbey Choir School head.
The building of the Abbey - strictly not now an abbey but a 'Royal Peculiar' - commenced as long ago as around 1042. For much of its history Westminster Abbey must have been a catholic church but subsequently the wayward state of many catholic clergy in the UK and Europe led to the reformation, in which of course King Henry VIII played his part, resulting in the separation of the Church in England from the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 which sadly still continues; but that is a digression...
The Abbey was packed with students parents choristers staff friends and advisers and the music before the service commenced at 3pm was uplifting.
Especially memorable and interesting was the address given by The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin. She was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Ordained in 1994 when the CoE first ordained women; was appointed as a chaplain to HM The Queen in 2007 and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in 2010 and the service leaflet states:
"She is known for her commitment to challenging institutional racism in the Church and wider society".
Particularly interesting about her address which I imagine in the Catholic Church would be described as a "sermon", was her stressing to the girls how privileged they are and how important it was for them not simply to strive for the best GCSE and A Level results without also taking into account the fundamental need to use one's qualifications to support the deprived and poor. Indeed she emphasised the pointlessness of obtaining the best examination results if those successes are only used for self advantage.
Westminster Abbey had arranged for the bells to be rung at the end of the the service and it was wonderful to leave the service through the Great West Door, to the loud and uplifting peal of the Abbey bells also being enjoyed by the crowds of tourists outside.
Then on to the reception with much good company conversation and wine.
A hard afternoon's work!