A message from the Dean (published in the Impartial Reporter on Thusday 26th March)
When we move out of this crisis may we all work together so that a better world will emerge! The Health Minister has said that we are about to or could experience a crisis of biblical proportions, and we live in the fear of the Corona virus (Covet 19). What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to turn when this crisis comes? As a Christian I can only point you to God’s word, which is full of great promises and perhaps one of the most comforting is: “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46). God assures us that in the storms of life we have to fight we do not have to fight them alone. God is there to help, providing refuge, security and strength. His power is complete, and his ultimate victory is certain, and he will not fail to rescue those who love him. If we believe this God will give us a peace - “The peace of God that passes all understanding, that guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
When the storms of life rise, and our shaky supports begin to crumble and fall what do we do? It is then, and only then, that sometimes, some of us only realise we need something or someone that will save us. Many turn to short-term measures for short-term comfort, and I don’t have to name them for you to know what they are. Short-term comforts don’t protect us in the long term. No storm can destroy us when we take refuge in God. If we have that peace or reassurance that God loves us, then we know we are not afraid to face the future. Jesus never promised any of us an easy life, but one thing he did promise was that he would never leave us or forsake us (Matthew 28:20).
In the light of what is facing us maybe you are searching, struggling with the meaning of life. Well very simply you need to grasp hold of life before it controls you! If we put our trust and hope in God we need not despair. God will turn our tragedies to triumphs, our poverty to riches, our pain to glory, our defeats to victory. All believers will stand reunited in God’s presence, safe and secure, and it is with this great hope we should comfort and reassure each other in this time of crisis. It is my earnest prayer that each reader today will experience that same peace and have that same hope. It is not the chances we take in life, but the choices we make that determine our destiny!
The best advice I could give you today is “Trust in the Lord will all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him. and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). In the midst of the world’s panic and fear I can assure you my God is one of love, He doesn’t kill us off, He Himself died to give us life not death. People need to hear that God is a healer at this time, that God is compassion, that God is love and that God is near. I hope that you too can experience a God who loves you and I am sure God is heartbroken by this situation! However, in the midst of all, it must be pleasing to God how many are practising ‘love of our neighbour’, and to see so many, especially our young people reach out in love and care to the vulnerable and housebound. May we all continue together to practise our love for God and our neighbours, and when we move out of this crisis may we all work together so that a better world will emerge!
New FeatureFor people of faith in these difficult times, listening to Christian music, or better still, watching it being performed on line, is very uplifting - a real spiritual experience. During the Coronavirus crisis, this page will carry links to music videos which we hope will be a blessing to all.
To see our choir singing two of the best known hymns by old Portoran Henry Francis Lyte, "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven" and "Abide with Me" Click HERE
23rd March: The hymn "Nearer My God to Thee" is one of our most loved and is associated with the Titanic Disaster in 1912, even if the story about it being played by the ship's band is probably untrue. The version of the tune, performed by André Rieu and his orchestra and choir at a concert in Amsterdam is extremely beautiful and moving. Can you view it without tears in your eyes? Try it and see! Click HERE.
24th March: The communion hymn "I am the Bread of Life" is usually associated with the Roman Catholic interpretation of the Christian faith, but it is in our Church of Ireland hymn book - number 420. The particularly jolly version featured here is performed by The University of Notre Dame Folk Choir. The basis of its chorus "And I will raise you up on the last day" should be a joy to all believers! (There is an ad. before it plays, but you can skip it if you wish.) Click HERE
25th March: Today's musical treat is "If Ye Love Me" - composed by Thomas Tallis in 1560 - it uses the words of Jesus found in the Gospel of St. John chapter 14. It was used beautifully during Prince Harry's wedding (search for it on YouTube). It is sung in four parts (complicated!) so the video I'm referring to in the link here shows the lyrics to make it generally easy to follow. (You may have to endure a very short ad. before it starts!) Click HERE 26th March: And another treat: the supremely beautiful "Ave Verum Corpus" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Our choir sometimes sings this during communion - sadly it could be quite a long time till those days are back with us. It is sung in Latin but the English translation appears on screen. Click HERE
27th March: As I was taking out the bin on a beautiful calm and starry night about 8pm yesterday, I looked up to the sky and into the depths of the universe and it struck me that our God is bigger than it - and I am so small. Yet He knows my every thought, even the hairs on my head are numbered. The words of the hymn "How Great Thou Art" came to mind. Then, by coincidence, on Facebook our head projectionist Ronnie Carson requested that very hymn - so here it is! Click HERE.
28th March: At this point, as we listen to the beautiful "Hymn to the Fallen", we might reflect on the many who have lost their lives as a result of infection by this terrible virus and remember in prayer their relatives and friends in the enormous sorrow that they suffer. Not forgetting the wonderful teams of scientific researchers, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, many of whom daily risk their own lives in the fight against the infection. Click HERE.
29th March: The hymn "Be Thou My Vision" is very commonly sung in St. Macartin's Cathedral in normal times. The words are based on an ancient Middle Irish poem translated by Eleanor Hull in 1912 and has been sung to the tune "Slane" since 1919. This YouTube version has had nearly six million views. To listen and to read the lyrics, click HERE.
30th March: I stumbled upon this "virtual choir" (the only sort allowed at present) singing "Down to the River" - a song which I first heard on the soundtrack of the wonderful film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" starring George Clooney. In it, he and two other not-very-intelligent convicts meet a baptismal party heading towards a river in the deep south of the United States. Click HEREforthe virtual choir. It's a bit repetitive but the harmonies are gorgeous.
31st March:I only remember the old hymn, "Tell Me the Old Old Story" being sung once in the cathedral, but on that occasion it was done with enthusiasm. I think t generated nostalgic feelings in many of those present. If you have an Alexa and ask her to play the hymn, this version by Ann Williamson pops up. Click HERE to listen to it.
1st April: Another old, but much loved hymn, "Rock of Ages" - which always reminds me of a hanging scene in the 1968 Clint Eastwood Western, "Hang 'em High"! Click HERE for a version where no one dies!
All churches which are closing during the crisis will suffer financially as freewill offerings will not be so forthcoming. I would respectfully request all registered parishioners to continue using the envelopes and to hold onto them until such times as they can be passed on to us. (Please note that the office in the cathedral hall is, of course, closed. Our secretary, Beth Rennick will be working from home.)
Click on this photo of Bangor Abbey for daily streamed services at 9am and 9pm during the Coronavirus crisis.