I can only speak for myself, but the memory (mentioned last week) of the Evening of Praise in the great Norman Cathedral in Durham is such a beautiful one that it will live in my mind and heart till the day I die.
Having worshipped (mid week) in the Cathedral when less than ten people were there, and on many a Sunday when less than a hundred were there, to see the building filling up that night was breathtaking. The excitement and expectation that we were about to share something wonderful was palpable.
When the Fisherfolk took to the stage, erected just for the night in the great crossing, and began to lead us in worship, the crowd grew more and more enthusiastic. Hymns old and songs new were sung, and the glory of the Lord seemed to fall. When finally the Revd David Watson began to preach the massive crowd grew silent. It was so still you could hear a pin drop. And in his inimitable fashion David took us into the Word of God. He spoke of the call of the gospel and the need we all had for the Holy Spirit’s power if we were to live it faithfully. He beckoned to all present, of whatever background or theological persuasion, to recommit their lives to the Lord Jesus, and ask for a new (or fresh) anointing of the Spirit. To those who were not Christians he beckoned them to receive the Lord’s love and life. Then he called us all to pray.
At once a murmuring stillness filled the great cathedral and then a symphony of prayer arose, and lasted for some time. When the Fisherfolk finally took the stage they began a worship set of gentle and melodious grace. The great congregation was drawn into a time of heart worship unlike anything many had ever before experienced. After multiple cycles of song and praise there descended a holy silence. It went on for several minutes, and then the voice of Mimi Armstrong, as she was then, started to sing a cappella the refrain from the Christmas Carol “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.” First a few joined her, then more, and then it was as if the whole cathedral was swaying in adoration. Over and over we sang those words. Tears of joy flowed, and healing balm descended on many, as a vision of a new dawn of faith and worship became incarnate.
Few wanted the evening to end, but a closing prayer was offered and a final blessing was pronounced. It was then then that an even more surprising thing occurred. As some people made their way to the platform to ask for prayer, or to seek guidance, others began to sing and dance spontaneously in the Nave and Transept aisles. Soon they formed a living chain, and as it grew and grew someone led it out the large doors and onto the Castle Green. The joy was unstoppable, and the chain of dancers and singers wound their way down into the Marketplace in the center of the town. It was a night and an experience that was unforgettable.
Those of us from the parish of St Margaret thought that any day the whole town would return to the Lord. We had seen a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
Next Week: Growing Pains & Vision Disharmony