Consecration

On Sunday, July 19th, the Cathedral celebrated, as it has every year, the anniversary of its consecration in 1924, and laying of its foundation stone in 1904. Every year, even through the world wars that have occurred since the Consecration, the special responses called the Rejoicings as penned by the first Dean, Frederick Dwelly, have been sung to mark this event liturgically in the life of the Cathedral, the refrain of which is:

Alleluia! The Lord is in his holy temple.

Alleluia! The Lord is here to Bless. Alleluia! Amen. 

This year, Consecration Sunday also marked the first time we could gather for public worship on Sunday morning in the Cathedral since March due to the lockdown. We began the liturgy that morning in the traditional way for Consecration Sunday, the Dean and Bishop of Liverpool walking in together from the Great West doors while the organ sounded a fanfare. 

I still am close to tears when I think back to standing in the congregation as they walked in together — socially distanced — and the Rejoicings were played as they moved through the congregation. Canon Myles and the Choral Scholars recorded these versicles and responses earlier that week (as choral rehearsals are permissible under the present conditions). Each time the refrain was repeated, I felt as if another layer of the tension of the last fourth months ease just a bit. We were finally able to return and worship in the Cathedral after not being able to for so long. 

As I looked through the Order of the Service for the Eucharist that morning, I found the four letters AMDG printed on the final page. I subsequently learned that the builders intentionally built Liverpool Cathedral AMDG, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God, which is why they appeared on the Order of Service. Those initials of that Latin text are also written at the end of every original score J.S. Bach penned. 

When we build to God’s glory, our building takes on special status. As soon as the worship of God begins in a certain place, the normal parameters of time and even space melt away. Worship connects us with the saints of every age back to Christ himself, and the prophets before him. We step into eternity when we worship God. And a dedicated worship-building, like a Cathedral, also can take on this eternity, can take on a life of its own, though made and run by human hands. 

This eternal, awe-inspiring sense of holy in a Cathedral like Liverpool is present, I fully believe, even if no one can enter it. Our labour to catch a glimpse of the eternal through a Cathedral, even if inaccessible, is still visible, through its striking architecture, through its online presence, through its virtual worship. 

This pandemic lockdown has triggered questions of why we employ special sacred places for worship if they are essentially useless during a lockdown. I do believe that God is present, or can be sensed, anywhere. But I also believe that a space set apart for God is crucial for an honest sense of faith: when we go to church, we have given ourselves one task: to sense where God is in our lives and where we are in relation to God as we worship God. Dedicated sacred space also connects us with the ages that have gone before us in the faith and in that space, and reminds us that the Church of which Christ is the head exists not just around the world, but through time. We can also leave behind us a special space for God for the generations that will come after us. 

The purpose of all this eternity in temporality, this holy place, this Cathedral, is God’s: God is here to bless. The reason we bother building and inhabiting a Cathedral is to place ourselves in God’s loving embrace, who knows us, loves us, and re-ligions us back together when we are broken by the broken world. And my Lord, have the last four months shown us that we are a broken world. 

We can take heart. We can take heart that God is present in our lives, in our world, and is accessible to us in times of joy and times of sorrow. This present God is beyond all understanding, yet holds us under the shadow of Her wings and has never stopped caring for us. 

Thank God, then, that: 

Alleluia! The Lord is in his holy temple.

Alleluia! The Lord is here to Bless. Alleluia! Amen. 

AMDG

Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!

Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.

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