BISHOP CHANG: Our journey, our pilgrimage is drawing to an end. We are entering a time of transition, a time of ambiguity and uncertainty where there is the anxiety of not knowing whether we're going to get home because of snow or the uncertainty of how we will be received when we return home with the sharing of the story of this experience. But it's important for us to take time at this point to understand the importance of the sacred story being told in other places to have a global perspective beyond these shores. And so we will be hearing this morning about formation and hope in Ireland and in Jerusalem, places where children live with ambiguity and uncertainty, where we'll have before us incarnate in Bishop Riah, Dean McKelvey and Nicholas Mau living and incarnate texts among us. I would invite us to listen with faithful hearts to their words as they share with us their story. To begin, I invite Dean McKelvey, who is the Dean of St. Ann's Cathedral in Belfast, to introduce their story, the story of formation, a story that we need to hear with faithful hearts.
DEAN McKELVEY: Brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for your hospitality and your kind invitation to be with you today, and thank you, Nicholas (addressing the teenager accompanying him), for coming to keep an eye on me, because he knows a little bit more about my cathedral than I do, by a long shot. I've just come from spending 20 years as a staffer in Christian education and I'm still a dean with L plates up (driving learner’s plates).
But sincere greetings to you all from my former boss and deeply beloved friend, the Archbishop of Armagh. We deeply value the links that we have with your church and with your presiding bishop. I've had the good fortune over 20 years to friendships with various staff members in the Episcopal Church Center, but I thank them for the way in which they have come and walked amongst us in an attempt to understand our pain and our confusion and, above all else, for the way in which they have done it, in a most non-judgmental way.
We, too, have been sharing your pain and your confusion since after 9-11, and you were most definitely in our prayers in both the cathedrals in Belfast and amongst both sets of choristers, when they sat down to write prayers, which with Robyn's good ministry, arrived in the cathedral in New York. So we are one in our pain and in our confusion.
(Shows the crest of Belfast Cathedral) The crest which you see tells you a little bit about our history, and history's always important in Ireland. The good Lord said, "No man can serve two masters," but in Belfast Cathedral have two diocesan bishops. And that comes from our history in that under that great Anglican bishop Jeremy Taylor, the three dioceses of Down, Dromore, and Conner were united together in 1601, a fairly recent event. In the 1700s, the parish church of St. Anne was built and then in 1904, because the city was growing at considerable size, it was decided that there should be a city cathedral. And so that's where we are, right in the heart of the city, right in the heart of the civic life of the Northern Ireland community.
Now I haven't brought with me any slides of our beautiful scenery, but please do come and visit us. Selling the tourist facilities of Northern Ireland was not my brief today. (Shows map of Northern Ireland) To put it into context, Northern Ireland was formed in 1921 when the 26 counties of the Irish Republic decided to leave the United Kingdom. We've had two types of violence in Northern Ireland. One has been rural and the other has been urban. And all along that rather winding border there are Church of Ireland Anglican parishes. There are very few of them who have not had a farmer killed during the years of our violence, because land is an emotive thing in Ireland and to give you an idea of scale, you can drive across Northern Ireland in less than three hours and you can drive from north to south in about two hours, 15 minutes. The best historical description I can give you is the title of one of the best books of history on it. It's entitled The Narrow Ground. And when you've 3,000 people killed out of a population of one-and-a-half million, you have got to ask yourself serious questions.
(Shows map of Belfast) Here's part of our urban problem. That's Belfast on the eastern seaboard. Scotland is only an hour-and-a-half away by fast ferry, but because of the river, the mountains, and the sea, the formation of the city is pie-shaped. It's a city whose very morphology lends itself to sectarianism and to division. Some of you in grid pattern cities would know that. So there, you have us at the core of Belfast with the hills to the left and those great shipyards, Saddlay and Dunton , to the right, where the Titanic was built. We built other ships that floated, by the way.
(Shows the cathedral’s location) And so here we are in what is known as Donegal Street. Now that very good golfer Tiger Woods, if he was to stand at the front west end of our cathedral there with a two-iron, he could drive up Donegal Street to the north and down the white bit to the south there as well. I think he would find it difficult to accept that in that short distance over a period of 30 years, depending on how you do the count, there were 90 terrorist incidents. They ranged from murder to people being killed with car bombs, to arson, and anything else you'd care to name. Part of the problem was that that street lies outside the very well defended city core. A miracle of miracles, all through that, the people of God came to worship and parents brought their children to choir practices and to services.
This is a view from our cathedral door looking across Writers Square (shows the street). Some fairly influential writers are there. The building just to the left is our joint diocesan offices for the two dioceses, built on the site of a former Protestant Unionist newspaper which was burned down. This is the west front of the cathedral (shows same). It reflects on our story as a community. That is a war memorial to the young people from Northern Ireland who were killed in the First World War. We had families wiped out in one of the Battles of the Somme. But do come and see the largest Celtic cross in Ireland (shows same). I think that's one of our unique things, built during the 1960s and just inside there is our military chapel.
That's the view of the cathedral (shows same). The window at the back is the Window of the Good Samaritan. It's the only feature we have left from the old parish church. And that is the war memorial window to the local regiment. It was the only regiment in the British army which had a battalion on the beaches during D-Day, and in the air and we shared with a lot of Americans the pain and the anguish of the Korean War.
This is our community (shows a large group on the steps of the cathedral, including many young people in choir robes). This was taken when my predecessor celebrated his 50th anniversary of his ordination two years ago. Sadly, he died shortly afterwards, but if you run your eye along the front there, you will get an idea of how children and, in particular, our choristers, play an important role in our congregation.
Violence in the city today is confined to residential areas, usually low income, poorly paid areas, areas of public and state provided housing. This is in East Belfast (shows wall mural with British and Scottish flags). It's part of the Loyalist Protestant community. You'll see the map of Northern Ireland, the desire to link up with Great Britain, on the one hand, but do take a note of the Scots flag on the other side. And even Walt Disney gets into our bigotry (indicates a Mickey Mouse-like character). Have a look at the guy who's wearing the band uniform. This sad thing is that it's a mirror image society (shows another wall mural) and this is on the Roman Catholic side of the divide from an Irish nationalist perspective and, that, of course, is a mural on the end of the Sinn Fein Building, ah, to Bobby Sands, one of the hunger strikers who died.
Now the irony is that people feel threatened and here, you have what's euphemistically called a peace wall (shows wall built to separate neighborhoods). These have been erected to give people a sense of security when there's been communal violence, and you've got everything goin' on at these sites. You've got guys who were yesterday's terrorists trying to be today's political activists. You've people throwing pipe bombs over the walls, but still claiming that they're on a cease-fire, and the poor suffer. And there are decent people at times trapped in those areas who cannot move.
Now what can we as a cathedral do? How do we respond? First of all, we have an open and a declared ecumenism. We have a very active partnership with our local Roman Catholic Church. We have just entered in as a church to a covenant relationship with our Methodist Church. We try to support people who are engaged in communities of reconciliation. Some of you here I know, know of the Corymela Community. Canon Trevor Williams, who leads that community, is a member of our parish. The second thing that we offer is an interdenominational ministry of healing and a hospitable space for that to occur in. It was started ten years ago by our best man, who's an Anglican Franciscan, Brother David, and a former chaplain to prisoners. It was started with the help of a Roman Catholic provisional IRA former terrorist and a Protestant, a former UDA terrorist. And they came together to pray, to pray for healing in the community and healing for individual lives. Last Monday night it was my privilege to go into the cathedral and congratulate them on their tenth anniversary. There were over a thousand people of all religious denominations worshipping there.
(Shows himself dressed in black robes and hood.) This is Belfast Black Santa. And now please don't tell the CIA about this guy, otherwise, they'll be locking him up. Not black ethnically, as you can see, but black because of the Canterbury cloak. You ask the man on the street about Belfast Cathedral, he'll say, "That's where Black Santa sits out at Christmas." One of my predecessors 26 years ago got tired of the whole business of maintenance ministry and he simply took a cask, sat in the street, and begged for the poor. Twenty-six years later we have raised 2.6 million pounds and on Candlemas this year, we distributed 275,000 pounds to 157 different charities. But the first people to come along each year to give us a donation are these kids from a school for physically challenged young people (shows Black Santa with a group of disabled young people). They're all bright young buttons mentally, and as a treat that year I'd brought along the Irish wolfhound from the local Irish regiment. That small dog in the front is about six-foot-six plus extended, he can stand on his hind legs in the ground and his forepaws on my shoulder, and I'm very, very friendly when he does that. So that's one of the things we do.
We also host civic services. I didn't deserve 18 of them in my first year, and I certainly, much as I love our Queen, could have done without her visit on the 50th anniversary of her coronation (shows himself greeting the queen). This was all going out live on BBC. I think I lost about four pounds in weight that day, but that's something which people expect of us. They expect a hospitable space, they expect that the events in our society will be marked, and they expect that we will do it with good grace and good dignified worship.
So here is our cathedral (shows same). We would like to think it is a hospitable place. We would like to think of it as a place for reconciliation, a focus for charity and a place where we confirm those who work voluntarily for our society, but, above all else, we would like to think that it is a place of prayer, of eucharistic community, and praise. I have a fundamental feeling that a cathedral must always be a center of excellence for praise. That is the choir, which sang on the day that the Queen visited us (shows same). Incidentally, my churchwarden's the guy in the black suit. He's normally in the choir. The lady on the left, would you believe, is the first woman warden in the history of that place, mother of two, both former choristers, one ordained. And so the different relationships are worked out. It's my privilege now to work with parents, choristers, past choristers, and all the components that make up our cathedral community. But of this I'm convinced, that without the ministry of young people as choristers, we would not have a cathedral in Belfast.
This challenge of speaking here today forced me to examine the situation. Of our elected board members, 16 in all, at least six are parents of former choristers, three members are past choristers, and two are former members of the choir. So this whole thing is a focus for parental involvement. The parents of our choristers bring the boys to the cathedral five times a week, three times for practice, and they've done that despite bomb, bullet, or whatever. It's not a pleasant feeling to be sitting at an adult confirmation, as I was one evening, when the bishop said, "Sit back and in the quiet of this holy place, listen to God," and one of the biggest bombs in Belfast went off within a matter of seconds. It was certainly not the voice of God. But hopefully we've got better times ahead, offering two sung services to the community each Sunday. It's a community where an 80 year-old former high court judge, past chorister, can be seen in conversation with a nine year-old, congratulating him on singing the same solo in the same anthem that he had sung at that age.
And I'm going now to talk to the expert in this, because I'm not a chorister. And this is Nicholas. If you're a trade unionist, he was the head shop steward until two weeks ago. He was our head chorister and he's been a very good friend to me. So, Nicholas, how did you come to be in the cathedral choir?
NICHOLAS MAU: I started when David Drinkle, he was our past choirmaster, came to our primary school when I was eight. And he auditioned us all and he chose the best of us really and I went along to a few practices and I thought I'm getting a lot out of these and meeting a lot of new people, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing.
DEAN McKELVEY: Well, then your younger brother came along in time as well.
NICHOLAS MAU: Yes, he came along later.
DEAN McKELVEY: So how did you fit the balance in between schoolwork and all this, because you also play other instruments?
NICHOLAS MAU: Yes, ah, sometimes I wonder if it is possible. I don't know how I do it, but I manage...
DEAN McKELVEY: Well, where does God fit in in all of this for you?
NICHOLAS MAU: In the music, most of all in what we sing. Ah, I think one of the largest parts, ah, that the chorister plays is the worship and we sing and I think the congregation gets a lot out of that.
DEAN McKELVEY: Yeah, I think it's important for people to realize that if the young folk in the choir aren't in tune, it doesn't matter how many adults in the choir in tune, if the adults aren't in tune, it doesn't matter how many of the younger folk are in tune. And where've you been with the choir?
NICHOLAS MAU: My first choirship we sang in St. George's Chapel, which is beside Windsor Castle, just outside London. Then we sang in Portsmouth and Edinburgh and just two years ago in New York at St. John the Divine and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
DEAN McKELVEY: What do you think about relationships between the adults in the choir and you guys at times?
NICHOLAS MAU: I think it's unbelievable how well they get on. It really is.
DEAN McKELVEY: What happens at four o'clock each Tuesday and Friday? What is the sound that people will hear in the cathedral for about 15 minutes?
NICHOLAS MAU: Apart from footballs hitting the walls?
DEAN McKELVEY: I know that the choristers are bored at four o'clock on a Tuesday and Friday because I hear the supper ball bouncing off the cathedral wall. And that's the energy releaser before they go in for practice. You practice twice a week.
NICHOLAS MAU: Yes.
DEAN McKELVEY: And then you come in on Wednesday night with the adults.
NICHOLAS MAU: Yes.
DEAN McKELVEY: And what about Bible study and confirmation and all that? How did that come about?
NICHOLAS MAU: That's a long-term thing. That’s usually about a few months before Easter, I think it was. And Mr. Jim Gatgood took that. He, sadly, has passed away a few weeks ago. And that had a huge impact on all the boys and they really learned a lot about God and about worship and why they were there and what they were doing and …
DEAN McKELVEY: Jim was our lay reader. He was a man from a very, if I use the phrase "low church,” you understand? We're not very high church in Ireland. We've got a high church theology in a low church practice, and that confuses us. It certainly confuses Americans that come to visit, they can tell you. But Jim died after a long period of suffering during which I was with him most days. And he said to me, "I believe that God wanted me to be here." And for ten years this layman shared his faith with the children in a cathedral worship setting and with the guys in the choir, the young people in particular, and we all lost a deep friend. That's one we're still grieving for, so we're still at that and we need to find another Jim, don't we? Because I think the important thing about people like Jim for people like Nicholas is that what else do you expect from an ordained clergyman, but someone who believes in God -- well, most of the time. And that you need a layperson to say, "This is okay," and the boys had a very good friend in Jim. So I think there's faith. What else do you think we do that's right or wrong there, I mean, the very young people?
NICHOLAS MAU: I don't think we do anything wrong. (Smiles.)
DEAN McKELVEY: Thank you, God!
NICHOLAS MAU: I think the music, the fact that boys from all over Belfast are gathered together and singing is just a great, great achievement and great thing to do and they enjoy it.
DEAN McKELVEY: It is important to say that our choristers come from all religious denominations and from none. We've even have two chaps who will come and sing with us at Christmas as they're at college now. They're both Seventh Day Adventists. They will not receive communion, but as adults they will come forward for blessing. And I think that also models something of the Kingdom of God. But most of them end up as Anglicans of one sort of another, I think, in their adult life. And we have a big old boys' union and it's lovely.
We're trying to have our centenary next year. The last service we want to hold is a great choir service. And we're trying to invite back about a thousand people, like Nicholas, who've moved on, grown up, to sing. I walked up to one who'd been a former head of the civil service in Northern Ireland that had been to school and I said, "David, I want you on the 24th, or whatever it is of November next year." He says, "Sure, I'll come if you sing 'Oh, Thou the Central Law’ by Perry. I came home, opened up my email, there was a letter in from the Senior Information Office of the Canadian Navy saying, "I'm thinking about coming because when I left the choir to emigrate to Canada in 1955, they gave me a bound copy of 'The Messiah', and I'm still singing in a parish church choir." Dare I tell the one about Luke and the Harvard Business School?
NICHOLAS MAU: Go ahead.
DEAN McKELVEY: We were interviewing the new director of music recently and obviously the adults in the choir had said, "Dean, we want a say in this appointment." Now you want to have a discussion on a matter like that with our adult choir like you need a fortnight's snowed up in Chicago. So we drafted a simple instrument of evaluation, one for each of the four candidates, and standing in the back row of the choir was one of the more senior civil servants in Northern Ireland proudly wearing a sweater from the Harvard Business School. He'd just come back from a course. We picked on Nicholas and four of the other senior kids in the choir and tossed out our evaluation slips as well. It so happened that Luke's fell beside Stuart's, Harvard Business School, first year at secondary school. They marked the candidates exactly the same and the remarks in the box at the bottom were identical. So I sidled up to Stuart and I said, "Stuart, is your desk ever filled with personnel evaluation forms that you can't cope with? I'm willing to subcontract our choristers to you any day of the week." So anything else we need to say? Where do you see your music taking you?
NICHOLAS MAU: I don't think I'll ever stop doing music, stop singing. It's played a really, really large role in my life and certainly when I go on to university, I'll hopefully get into a decent choir there.
DEAN McKELVEY: I hear rumors you're going to try and sing tenor in a few months' time. Is that right? Hopefully yes. Now we'll try and deal with questions. You'll always notice a shifting dean, he's tryin' to move on and get it wound up and get out, ya' know? The presiding bishop has never seen a dean in his life acting like that, I'm sure.
FEMALE QUESTIONER: I just have a quick question. Listening to your presentation, it seems like you have a lot of stuff going for most of the guys, but we were sitting over here and wondering what do you offer for girls?
DEAN McKELVEY: My next job is to find the money to get the girls -- quite seriously, we have plans. We've just got in a brilliant new director of music and the next game is a young women's choir. Ah, that's the way it's gone in one or two other places. And I don't for one minute think it has harmed the choral tradition. Ah, musical directors come and go. The longest serving one in any cathedral in Britain was in our cathedral, Captain Brennan. He goes back to before the First World War and he was there for 60 years. It's a long time. But he said he wanted the best parish church choir in Belfast and his choir was mixed. I'm not going to tackle that one head-on, but we'll certainly this time next year I'd like to think we do have a girls and young women's choir, and you can come over and sing with it. Okay? Now that's not an idle invitation.
FEMALE QUESTIONER: A question here. I'm glad to know that the kids are learning a lot of music, but I'm wondering do you have any other religious formation for the children, either boys or girls, besides the choir program?
DEAN McKELVEY: Yeah. Any one who comes to us has passed at least one, two other Anglican churches. And so people really want to come and hear what we have to offer. So most of the other children we have in the cathedral are the younger brothers and sisters of the choristers. And we do have Christian formation for them, and that goes on very, very happily with a very competent volunteer staff. But it's something we'd like to grow further and it's certainly something when I get one or two other things like staff changes behind me, we will be looking at.
MALE QUESTIONER: I have a question for Nicholas. For North American kids violence is a game. It's video games, it's TV shows, movies. You live in a daily culture of violence. It's a very general question. Do you have any comment about what that's like, growing up in that atmosphere?
NICHOLAS MAU: Well, the violence in Northern Ireland is completely different from anything else. It's two different faiths fighting from what they think. They think they're freedom fighters, but basically they're just thugs and drug dealers and what-have -- whatever. They're not fighting for anything. They just think they're continuing what their ancestors have done, but they're not.
DEAN McKELVEY: Okay, I attempted to put together what I felt were the benefits of this program that we get into with our choristers.
The prayer which I have offered you is one which I hope you can know in context. When I was instituted into the cathedral, we had in the cathedral that evening representatives of all political traditions, including those who have certainly been in jail for terrorist offenses. We had Christians of all traditions and a couple of my Jewish friends were quietly present. Our schools are organized along denominational lines, mainly Roman Catholic or non-Roman Catholic. And so this was our prayer and I want you to imagine that you're now seated or kneeling in Belfast Cathedral and I'm beginning my new journey in my ministry. And if this touches chords in your own hometown, please God. We say together,
“Almighty God, Your son, our Savior Jesus Christ, cried over the beloved city of Jerusalem. We lift by You all the people of the city of Belfast, removed from our homes, our schools, our places of employment, our political and social processes, all that divides us. Give us a renewed vision of this city and let it be a place fit for all our children. May this cathedral continue to be at the heart of this community holding the community in our prayerful hearts. We pray for our partner Cathedral of St. Peter and those churches of this city which share a vision of unity in the name of Jesus. Help us, Merciful God, as we enter a new phase of ministry in this house of prayer, this doorway to Heaven. Turn our hearts again towards the new Jerusalem in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord. Amen.”