by Susan Hooke, St Peter's Cremorne
A spontaneous decision found us at Westminster Abbey just in time for Evensong on Thursday 13 October.
We four—your correspondent, husband, daughter and granddaughter—arrived in time for a treat beyond our expectation. We were participating in the First Evensong of the Translation of Edward the Confessor. It was seven hundred and forty years to the day that the remains of St Edward, King and Confessor were moved into a new shrine behind the high altar of the Abbey Church.
To the great joy of our mixed Anglican/Roman family, the Service Booklet explained that Evensong would be sung jointly by 'the Choirs of Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey'. (From 1650 daily prayer in the Abbey continued in the form of the two offices of Matins and Evensong while, since 1903 in Westminster Cathedral—Roman, Vespers had been sung daily.) 'Tonight's Service... is a celebration of our common heritage which stretches back to and beyond St Edward, whose example and devotion is commemorated with joy by both our churches. Here, at the Shrine of St Edward, we pray for the gift of unity which is Christ's own divine will'.
The choirs filled the Abbey with joyful praise; the first lesson (Eccl. 2:7–18); was read by the Reverend David Stanton, Canon in Residence at the Abbey and the second by Canon Christopher Tuckwell, Administrator, Westminster Cathedral. During the Anthem, the Dean of Westminster and the Administrator of Westminster Cathedral censed the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor.
In a sermon preached by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, at an earlier service, he had said 'The shrine is a powerful place of prayer and reconciliation, drawing divided people together'.
We took our leave through the 'West' door through a corridor of all the participating clergy from Abbey and Cathedral who were happy to talk. Imagine our surprise when we were greeted by a female voice with an Australian accent—Minor Canon, the Reverend Jenny Petersen who trained at Moore College!
We left with the Dean's words ringing in our minds 'we pray for the gift of unity which is Christ's own divine will'.
*During Edwardtide the life of St Edward the Confessor, King of England 1042-1066, the re-founder of Westminster Abbey is celebrated. Canonised in 1161, to this day pilgrims come to pray at his shrine.