Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bishop Graham Usher's Consecration at St Pauls - a special and truly spiritual day

Northumberland came to St Pauls and helped consecrate their friend and canon as the new Bishop of Dudley. How does one start to describe the day? It began with a celebration of old friends and parishioners descending on to the bustling metropolis that surrounds St Pauls Cathedral. As I parked my bicycle, having cycled from the House of Commons, London thronged around this wonderful Cathedral, as the multitudes went to work. Inside was calm and wonder at Wren's masterpiece of architecture and design. And then began the procession: I have been to the state opening of parliament and other ceremonial occasions and this surpassed all I have seen. The list bears repeating - a virger, the crucifer and acolytes, ostiarius, the prolocutor and deputy prolocutor and registrar of the House of Canterbury, the Bishop Designate [Graham!], The Presenting Bishops, The College of Bishops, The Dean's Virger, The Chapter of St Pauls, A Virger, The Bishops of Winchester and London, The principal Registrar, Another Virger, The sub Deacon, the Deacon, The Primatial Cross of Canterbury, and finally the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was quite a procession!
They entered as we all sung "Praise my soul the King of Heaven". Two things struck me immediately. Firstly, Graham is much younger than most of his fellow Bishops. Secondly, the acoustics in St Pauls are breathtaking. After every verse the sound lingered on for at least a second, echoing softly around the hallowed space. I have never heard such a sound in a church before. 

This blog could not describe each and every event of the near 1 and 3/4 hour ceremony but certain highlights stood out:
- We were treated to a wonderful sermon by our own Reverend Canon Dr Dagmar Winter, of Kirkwhelpington and the villages around. Her clear strong voice and the wisdom of her words moved one and all - certainly I noted Archbishop Justin listening attentively.

- But what was most moving is the actual Ordination Prayer, where all the Bishops gather around their brother Bishop, called the Ordinand, and
"lay their hands on the head of the Ordinand as the Archbishop says: "Send down the Holy Spirit on your servant Graham for the office and work of a Bishop in your Church."" I had no idea that this was the process of Ordination and that all the other Bishops were so involved. It was very moving.

- Then followed a Communion that was a logisitical masterpiece, with multiple Communion Assistants fanning out around St Pauls, so that one could look around and see Communion being given at all points of the compass within the Cathedral. I was by chance asked to process up the main aisle and toom Communion from the Archbishop.

- And finally we observed the Archbishop's procession exit the Cathedral as we sung "Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord". Again the sound was incredible.

And then we were all outside. Dozens waited to greet, congratulate, and chat to the new Bishop who was smiling, and only mildly over awed by the magnitude of what had taken place.
There is a great moment in Shakespeare's Henry V when the king has to describe Agincourt, and his desire to share the moment with his comrades in arms: he replies - "God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour". All of us who were there on Tuesday March 25th 2014 shared this honour. We lost a Canon, as he went on to higher things. But we wished him well. If all of us could have laid our arms upon him - as the Bishops so memorably did - then we would all have done so. The Church and the people of Dudley and Worcestershire are wise in their choice, and lucky souls. We, in Northumberland, are lucky to have known this great and truly spiritual man.