Nottingham Churches Sermon for Pentecost <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Sermon preached by Rev Christopher Harrison on Pentecost Sunday at St Mary’s Nottingham, 4<sup>th</sup> June 2017</span></strong></p> <p>Today is Whitsunday, or Pentecost.   Pentecost is the day when the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first disciples, after Jesus had left this earth and returned to his heavenly Father. The word   ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek word for fifty, and this day is exactly fifty days after Easter (including the Sundays at the beginning of the period and at the end).   So Pentecost Sunday, depending as it does on the date of Easter, also changes its date from year to year.   In fact, Pentecost was a Jewish feast, which the Jews celebrated long before the first Christians adopted it - it was a feast of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest.   Whitsunday became the popular name for Pentecost in this country, because it was often a day on which baptisms took place - Whit meaning ‘white’, in old English, and referring to the white robes of baptism. </p> <p>So who or what is the Holy Spirit, whose coming we celebrate today?  Let’s try to build up a picture of the Holy Spirit, as he is seen at work in the New Testament.   The Holy Spirit assists with the conception of Jesus, through Jesus’ mother Mary; he is also with John the Baptist, from the time when he was still within his mother’s womb.   The Spirit, symbolised by a dove, is said to have descended on Jesus when he was baptised by John the Baptist. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying that the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me, anointing me to bring good news to the afflicted’.   Jesus casts out demons in the power of the Spirit.  He also refers to the ‘Spirit of truth’, contrasting life in the Spirit to life as governed by one’s lower nature.  Jesus urges his followers to be born of spirit, not of human nature. He says that when people receive the Holy Spirit they are ‘clothed with the power from on high’.</p> <p>At the Last Supper, as we hear in today’s gospel reading, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with the disciples after he has left them.   He calls the Holy Spirit the ‘Counsellor’ - which is one translation of the original Greek word ‘paraclete’. The Holy Spirit, as ‘Counsellor’, will give the disciples guidance, inspiration, and the wisdom of God.   The word ‘paraclete’, however, has two more meanings.   One of these is that of ‘advocate’.   An advocate is a person who stands up for you, or defends you. So the Holy Spirit would speak through the disciples when they were persecuted.   The third meaning of the word ‘paraclete’ is ‘comforter’; which means that the Holy Spirit would also give the disciples strength and comfort in times of distress.   Jesus added that the Holy Spirit was the means whereby he would remain with the disciples after he had left this earth, saying that through the Spirit he would come back to them, and not leave them as orphans. Before ascending to heaven, he tells his disciples to go out to all nations and baptise people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. </p> <p>The first of today’s readings, from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, tells how Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit upon the disciples was fulfilled on the day of the first Christian Pentecost. This is the famous account of the Spirit’s coming like a mighty wind, a description which is connected with the idea of the Spirit being the breath of God.  On that occasion the Holy Spirit was also experienced in the form of tongues of fire resting on each of the apostles.  The apostles were given the power to speak in languages other than their own, so that people from many different races could hear about Christ in their own language. </p> <p> All these images of the Holy Spirit are not designed to be confusing - they are simply what we find in the Bible, and reveal how difficult it is to describe one who is beyond all description.   That being said, St. Paul is quite clear about what the Holy Spirit does:</p> <p>- The Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts</p> <p>- The Spirit gives us new life:   ‘the harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life’ (Gal. 6.8)</p> <p>- The Spirit helps us to pray, by praying through us when we cannot pray ourselves</p> <p>- The Spirit sets us from the law of sin and death</p> <p>- The Spirit brings saving justice, peace and joy. </p> <p>In 1 Corinthians 12 St. Paul describes the Spirit as giving gifts to believers, different gifts to different people:   the gift of wise speech; the gift of faith; the gift of healing; the working of miracles; the gift of prophecy; the gift of speaking in different tongues and of interpreting these tongues.  In his letter to the church in Galatia, he explains how the Spirit also enables those in whom he dwells to bear spiritual fruit; such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness and self-control.  </p> <p>I’ve set out how the Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament.   But does the Spirit still work among us in the same way today?   The answer is yes - and there should be no great surprise about this. Jesus said to his disciples that he would be with them until the end of time - the Holy Spirit is the way in which he brings this about.   The Holy Spirit is in fact none other than God himself at work within us, both as individuals and as a society; forever trying to draw us closer to God, if we will open our hearts, our minds and our lives to God, fully, sincerely, genuinely, intent upon hearing the voice of the Spirit of God within us. This response need not be spectacular or dramatic;   it does not require the fervour and emotional intensity of a pentecostalist or charismatic service. In fact, the Spirit’s work is usually more lasting if we keep sight of the immense mystery which lies at the heart of God, and allow this to quieten our hearts and minds so that we can little by little see the Spirit active in our lives, and hear the voice of the Spirit deep in our hearts. This is the voice which takes us beyond narrow self interest, to things which will be of wider benefit to our neighbours, to our church and community and to our world.   This is the power of God which creates the water of life welling up within us when we live lives which are rooted in prayer, and centred on God. It is the power which gradually gives us the gifts which nourish the fruits of the spirit which I quoted earlier - particularly faith, hope and love - the greatest being love. </p> <p>I’d like also to say that over the years, I have come to see the Holy Spirit as being the way in which God helps, guides, encourages us to lead lives which are in accordance with his purpose for us.  One of our main tasks here on earth is to discern the purpose which God has for us – ie why we are here – and to fulfil that purpose to the best of our ability.  This applies to us from our childhood to our later years; the purpose God has planned for us may of course go through several phases over this period.  But essentially, God, through the Holy Spirit, invites us to consider what we are doing with our life; how we are doing it; and the people with whom we are endeavouring to fulfil God’s purpose for us.  What, how, and with whom.  Every so often it’s important for us to stand back, reflect, think, pray, and ask ourselves how we think we are doing in relation to God’s purpose for us.  Do we think we have found that purpose?  If not, take the first step in trying to discover it.  Are we doing the various things that our life involves in a way which is in line with the teachings of Jesus, as set out in the New Testament?  Only we – and God – can know for sure.  And have we found the right people to be alongside us on our journey towards what God desires of us?</p> <p>On this Whit Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.   Their lives were dramatically transformed:  they became convinced of God’s purpose for them, and devoted their whole lives to God and were given the strength with which to do this.  Is this Whit Sunday a moment for you to think afresh, with the help of the Holy Spirit, about God’s purpose for you?  What, how and with whom?  Even though we are unlikely to experience a rushing wind or tongues of fire, the Holy Spirit is always present to those who desire and seek God; and, in our journey of purpose and faith, the breath of God will always be there as our advocate, our counsellor, and our strength.  Amen.</p> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:43:50 +0200 Coffee Break Concerts June/July 2017 <p><strong>Each Saturday in June and 1st July.</strong></p> <p>Come and hear fine music in the serenity of St Peter's Church in the centre of Nottingham.</p> <p>All concerts start at 11am and last for one hour.</p> <p>1st July - Harriet Astbury, soprano and saraBande - a programme of Bach's secular cantatas</p> <p>Coffee &amp; biscuits are available from 10.15.</p> <p>Admission is by donation.</p> <p>Each Saturday morning is something different and delightful - see the flyer below under Other Publications</p> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:09:48 +0200 Friend of St Mary's church Annual General Meeting <p>The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of St Mary's church will take place in the Chapter Room at St Mary's following the 10.45 am service on Sunday 16th July.  All are welcome to attend, to hear reports of the last year's activities, to elect officers and members of the Executive Committee, and to discuss forthcoming plans and events.</p> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:06:45 +0200 100 Years of Women in the Royal Navy - Sea Sunday <p>100th anniversary of Women in the Royal Navy:  On Sunday 9th July at 10.45 am a special service will be held in St Mary's church to celebrate 100 years of Women in the Royal Navy.  This is part of a national series of events to mark this important anniversary.</p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:43:43 +0200 Family Service 9th July <p>The next Family Service will be 9.45am 9th July at St Peter's. All are welcome to this child friendly service with crafts, coffee and croissants after!</p> <p>The Family Services are every 2nd Sunday of every month so following dates are:</p> <p>13th August</p> <p>10th September</p> <p>8th October</p> <p>12th November</p> <p>10th December</p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:42:32 +0200 St Peter's Patronal Festival <p>St Peter's Patronal Festival:  Sunday 2nd July will be celebrated as the Patronal Festival of St Peter's church, with a festal Eucharist at 10.45 am.</p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:40:31 +0200 Scholars' Concert <p>St Mary's Scholars' concert:  On Sunday 11th June at 8.00 pm in St Mary's church, the St Mary's choral scholars will present their annual concert.  Do come to what will be an exciting and varied programme.</p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:39:02 +0200 Concert at St Mary's 10th June <p>Purcell<em> <strong>Dido &amp; Aeneas</strong></em></p> <p>Handel <strong><em>Acis &amp; Glatea</em></strong></p> <p> </p> <p><em>        7.30pm<br/></em></p> <p> </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Choir of St Mary's</span> and the <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Orchestra of the Restoration</span></p> <p>Directed by <span style="text-decoration: underline;">John Keys</span><em> </em></p> <p><em>Tickets: Nave £15.00 (£13.00) from </em>the Parish Office</p> <p>                  Nottingham Tourism Centre</p> <p>                  Classical CD (Goosegate)</p> <p>                  Windblowers (Derby Road)<em><br/></em></p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:31:45 +0200 Coffee Break Concerts June 2017 <p><strong>Coffee Break Concerts</strong></p> <p><strong><br/></strong></p> <p><strong>Each Saturday in June and 1st July.</strong></p> <p>        Come and hear fine music in the serenity of St Peter's Church in the centre of Nottingham.</p> <p>All concerts start at 11am and last for one hour.</p> <p>Coffee &amp; biscuits are available from 10.15.</p> <p>Admission is by donation.</p> <p>Each Saturday morning is something different and delightful - see the flyer below under Other Publications</p> Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:25:17 +0200 Fairtrade Fortnight <p>Fairtrade Fortnight has just begun but we are now in Lent. Instead of giving up chocolate this year <strong>why not take up Fairtrade chocolate? </strong></p> <p>We have a range of Fairtrade chocolate in the shop at St Peter's by Divine. We also have exciting Easter Eggs such as Popcorn Chocolate newly arrived in preparation for 16th April, Easter Sunday.</p> <p>Come to see the range of Fairtrade products in the shop.</p> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 11:32:16 +0100 Family Service <p>The next Family Service will be 9.45am 11th June at St Peter's. All are welcome to this child friendly service with crafts, coffee and croissants after!</p> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 11:22:40 +0100 Coffee Break Concerts February/March 2017 <p>The final Coffee Break Concert of this series is Saturday 4th March.</p> <p>4th March Yulia Nortridzh, violin with Neil &amp; Jane Millensted, piano</p> <p>The concert starts at 11am and lasts for one hour</p> <p>Coffee &amp; biscuits are available from 10.15</p> <p>Admission by donation</p> <p> </p> <p>The next series will be June 2017 - set the date in your diaries now</p> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 16:55:13 +0100 Saturday Matinee season continues <p>The Saturday Matinee films season has returned to All Saints' Church.</p> <p>All are welcome.</p> <p>Admission is free and the films begin at 2pm.</p> <p>          18th Feb: 'Far from the Madding Crowd           25th Feb: 'Airport'</p> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:30:00 +0100 Saturday Matinee at All Saints' Church - Christmas Special <p><em><strong>All Saints’ Church presents…</strong></em></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><a href="">THE SATURDAY MATINÉE - Christmas Special<br/><br/></a></p> <p>All Saints’ Church<br/>Raleigh Street<br/>NG7 4DP<br/>Saturday 17th December, 2pm<br/>Admission free, with donations invited for Emmanuel House. Refreshments available.</p> <p> </p> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 16:42:52 +0100 £10,000 Appeal for Emmanuel house launched <p><strong>Nottingham's city centre churches launch £10,000 Emmanuel House charity appeal</strong></p> <p>The parish will launch its 2016-17 appeal in support of the work of Emmanuel House with rough sleepers and other vulnerable people this Sunday. The <a href="">appeal leaflet</a> gives lots of ideas for raising money and organising activities in support of the appeal, as well as a donation form.</p> <p>For further details or to make a donation, please contact the parish office on 0115 948 3658 or email</p> <p> </p> Thu, 24 Nov 2016 11:19:54 +0100 Advent & Christmas 2016 <p><strong>Christmas Services across the Parish<br/><br/>Sunday 27th November - Advent Sunday</strong><br/>8.15am - Holy Communion @ St Peter's<br/>10.30am - Sung Eucharist @ All Saints'<br/>10.45am - Sung Eucharist @ St Mary's*<br/>10.45am - Sung Eucharist @ St Peter's*<br/>5.00pm - Advent Vespers @ St Peter's *<br/>6.30pm - Advent Procession @ St Mary's*<br/><br/><em><strong>Friday 2nd December<br/></strong>7.30pm - Nottingham Trent University Carol Service @ All Saints'<br/><strong><br/>Thursday 8th December<br/></strong>7.30pm - University of Nottingham Carol Service @ St Mary's</em><br/><em><br/><strong>Monday 12th December<br/></strong>7.00pm - Hollygirt Carol Service @ St Peter's</em><br/><strong><br/><em>Tuesday 13th December<br/></em></strong><em>6.30pm - Carols after Work @ St Peter's<br/>6.30pm - Civic Carol Service @ St Mary's</em><br/><strong><br/><em>Wednesday 14th December<br/></em></strong><em>2.15pm - Nottingham Girls' High School Junior Carol Service @ All Saints'</em><br/><em><strong><br/>Thursday 15th December<br/></strong>7.30pm - Nottingham High School Carol Service @ St Mary's</em><br/><strong><br/><em>Friday 16th December<br/></em></strong><em>11am - Nottingham Girls' High School Senior Carol Service @ All Saints'</em><br/><strong><br/>Wednesday 21st December <br/></strong>1.00pm - Lace Market Carol Service @ St Mary's<br/><br/><em><strong>Thursday 22nd December<br/></strong>5.45pm - Browne Jacobson Carol Service @ St Peter's</em><br class="_mce_marker"/><br/><strong>Saturday 24th December<br/></strong>4.00pm - Family Carol Service @ St Peter's*<br/>7.00pm - Festival of nine lessons and carols @ St Mary's*<br/>11.30pm - Midnight Mass @ St Peter's<br/>11.30pm - Midnight Mass @ All Saints'<br/><br/><strong>Sunday 25th December<br/></strong>10.00am - Sung Eucharist @ St Peter's*<br/>10.30am - Sung Eucharist @ All Saints'<br/>10.45am - Sung Eucharist @ St Mary's<strong>*<br/></strong></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong><em> </em></strong></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong><em>The services marked * are sung by the Church Choir</em></strong></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>From all at All Saints', St Mary's and St Peter's, we wish you a very happy Christmas.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/></strong></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong><br/></strong></p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:11:29 +0200 The various forms of Prayer <p><strong>The various forms of Prayer: Sermon preached by Rev Christopher Harrison atAll Saints’ Church, 16th October 2016</strong></p> <p>Jesus told the disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. A widow kept coming to a judge asking for justice against her enemy; for a long time he refused, but finally gave in. ‘I must give this widow her just rights since she keeps pestering me, or she will come and slap me in the face’.</p> <p>The Gospel writer describes this as a parable about the value of perseverance in prayer, as well as being an encouragement to the disciples to remain steadfast even if they were unable to see any signs of God granting them justice.</p> <p>Let’s look more closely at the Christian tradition of prayer. The impulse to pray seems to be part of what it means to be human. Prayer is a key element of all the major religions, in one form or another. Even though the different faiths of the world all have different beliefs about God, all take as one of their starting points the fact that prayer is important. Prayer, then, is a response to the awareness, however dim and poorly understood, that there is something, someone, some Being or Power greater than ourselves; and that something within us wants to relate to that Being – the Being who, of course, in the Christian tradition we call God. I’m not going to make detailed comparisons between the different religions, but as we look at what prayer is, and what it involves, it is worth bearing in mind that some aspects of prayer are similar across the various faiths, and this should be a source of mutual understanding and partnership.</p> <p>In the Christian tradition, there are four main forms of prayer: Adoration, Confession of Sin, intercession, and listening to God.</p> <p>(i) Adoration – this means remembering that God is the source and origin of all that is; God is Love, God is characterised by mercy and compassion, blessing and justice. Adoration, therefore, is a response to God’s goodness which involves us in thanking, praising, worshipping God. This may be something which is exuberant and emotional; it may also be an inner attitude which is calm and serene, in which we focus on God and God alone, perhaps through contemplation of an image of Christ or the Trinity, or something similar. Part of the prayer of adoration can be thanksgiving; showing gratitude to God for all those things in our lives which it is so easy to take for granted: health, family, security, shelter. Sometimes when things are difficult in our lives it can help us a lot to remember all the ways in which God blesses us. As today’s gospel reading reminds us, our prayers to God should help us not to lose heart, even when the struggles of life seem impossibly heavy. Sometimes as we cultivate an attitude of quiet adoration of God, we are able to put our self and our selfish concerns aside; and this is a good discipline as we try to cultivate the quality of leading a life which is not self-absorbed.</p> <p>(ii) Confession of sin, and asking God for forgiveness: However far we think we have travelled along the Christian path, there will always be aspects of our lives in which we fail God and one another. Simply by being human, we will always fall short of how we might ideally be in our relationships with one another and with God. Part of our regular prayer, therefore, must involve humbly acknowledging this, and seeking God’s forgiveness and guidance as we try to make amends and avoid falling into the same traps in the future. Humility is one of the core values of the Christian faith; if we don’t keep this in mind we will tend to forget that we all need to embrace and take into our lives the tremendous gift of God made to the world by the self-giving sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, taking upon his shoulders the consequences of the world’s sin and making a new reconciliation possible between God the world.</p> <p>(iii) Thirdly – intercession. This is, essentially, praying for other people. When we pray for someone, we can never tell what God’s purpose for them might be. Our prayers are, rather, an expression to God of our concern for them, offered not as an alternative to giving whatever practical help and support we can, but as an addition to this. Does intercessory prayer ‘work’? Prayer isn’t like one of those self-service machines for sweets, chocolate and drinks you get in hospitals, where you put in your money and your chosen item drops out with a ‘clunk’ in the tray at the bottom. When we pray for someone, it’s rather like focussing our love, care and concern towards them, in the faith that just as when we are showing care to a sick person by their bedside, our prayers, even if we are far away from the person concerned, somehow connect with them and with the love that God is showing them. Many times people have said to me how much they have been encouraged and strengthened by the prayers of others, even though they may not know exactly who is praying for them. And when we pray for groups of people in need, for communities, even countries, we may not ever know just what effect these prayers may have, but they should be part of our wider efforts to help build a society in which all may have the opportunity to be the person God wants them to be.</p> <p>(iv) Adoration, confession, intercession: fourthly, listening to God. Prayer shouldn’t be just a one-way street in which we just talk to God. Listening to what God is saying to us is just as important – and, some would argue, more so. It isn’t always easy to distinguish between what God is saying to us and what our own inner voice is telling us, and we must be careful not to rush into doing something just ‘because God has told me to do it’, without proper reflection and full consideration. But if we learn how to cultivate an inner stillness, it makes it easier to distinguish between those of our impulses and instincts which are selfish, and the voice of God guiding us towards a better path. We may also find that when we ask God for guidance in resolving a particular problem or difficulty, it may take some time before we see where God is leading us, and the way suddenly becomes clearer. We shouldn’t expect our approaches to God to be like just turning on a tap and the water comes out on demand; quite often answers to prayer are not given immediately, and we have to wrestle with the problem ourselves as well. And of course we must also be ready, if we are listening properly to God, to receive answers which are not always comfortable.</p> <p>Adoration, confession, intercession, listening to God: if we are take Jesus’ instructions to pray continually (something also echoed by St Paul), we need to cultivate the habit of making all of these forms of prayer part of our everyday life. Prayer isn’t just for Sundays. Prayer should, moreover, be rooted in Scripture, as well as being connected with our thinking and rational faculties; and with what the teaching of the Church in its ancient as well as more modern traditions can tell us. As we pray, we can use set prayers, prayers written by others, as well as prayers which come from ourselves. Our prayers are also a way in which the Holy Spirit works through us, helping us to pray, guiding us in prayer, and enabling us to become closer to God and one another through our prayers. So it’s up to each one of us to persevere in prayer – in particular not giving up when prayer seems difficult. The more we turn to God regularly in prayer, we should before long begin to see things in a new light, and to realise that our prayers are helping our relationship with God to deepen and mature, in ways, sometimes, that we did not expect. Being attentive to God in prayer also helps us to learn how to be more attentive to other people, and to appreciate more fully the journey through life that we share with all others. So let us not neglect to keep faithful in prayer, in all the ways I have outlined. Do not lose heart if the way sometimes seems hard; for it is also a great Christian truth that we have to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves; and we do this in the faith and sure knowledge that after the Cross comes Resurrection. Amen.</p> <p> </p> Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:25:13 +0200 St Mary's Concert Series <p><strong>St Mary's Sunday Evening Concert Series</strong><br/><br/>In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of The Bard, a recital series is taking place at St Mary's, commencing on Sunday 9 October. Entitled 'Serenade to Shakespeare', the series will include solo, choral and instrumental pieces setting or inspired by the works of the world's greatest poet. Proceeds from the five-week series will benefit Emmanuel House. All are welcome after Sunday evensong at St Mary's, with each short concert starting at 7.45pm.</p> <p><strong>* It is unfortunate that, due to ill health, William Burn is unable to sing on Sunday - so, with regret, our first Shakespeare Concert on Sunday 9th October has been cancelled *</strong></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:53:58 +0200 St Mary's Choir perform on new single <p><strong>Acclaimed Nottingham choir braced for chart success</strong></p> <p>Choristers from St Mary’s Church in Nottingham’s Lace Market feature on a new single by musical collective BE.</p> <p>BE – the musical collective behind the critically acclaimed album ONE, which was inspired by Wolfgang Butress’ installation The Hive at Kew Gardens – release a new single on Monday 19 September called Blue Lullaby.</p> <p>Released on the innovative Caught By the River’s Rivertones label Blue Lullaby was initially inspired by the melody and theme of the Coventry Carol and features choristers from St Mary’s Church, Nottingham.</p> <p>The single gets an exclusive airing on Mary Anne Hobbs’ show on BBC 6 Music on Sunday 17 September and will be available for download on iTunes next week.</p> <p>Ten members of St Marys Choir recorded vocal parts which take their inspiration from idea of the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ – King Herod’s desire to massacre every male infant in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus - and the haunting melody of the 16th Century "Coventry Carol". The melody has been substantially developed into a track which is now unique to BE.</p> <p>The collaboration between BE and St Mary’s Choir came about thanks to Wolfgang Buttress’ admiration for the quality of the church’s musicianship. Under the direction of John Keys (official organist for the City of Nottingham), the choir has developed a reputation as one of the finest adult parish church choirs in the region. It comprises a core group of local singers which is supplemented by choral scholars from Nottingham’s universities. A number of former choristers have gone on to music college and forged careers as professional singers. The choir is one of very few outside London to have been invited to sing Sunday services at St Paul’s Cathedral. In recent years it has toured Italy, and sung New Year’s Eve concerts in Germany.</p> <p>John Keys says: “Week in week out we perform music spanning 500 years of liturgical composition. So I was delighted when Wolfgang asked if we would consider being part of a new project. It’s a fantastic collaboration and demonstrates the depth of creativity in Nottingham and the willingness of people who take their creative inspiration from varying reference points to work together.”</p> <p>BE’s album One, which featured in The Guardians 'Best Albums of 2016 so far' in June, was inspired by Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress’ multi award-winning sculpture The Hive at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Such was its success, that BE were invited to perform at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. The new single builds on the immersive soundscape style which has won over audiences and critics alike.</p> <p>A live performance of One will be performed at St Mary's Church, Nottingham on the 16th and 17th December 2016. This concert features the new single and St Mary’s Choir.</p> <p> </p> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 11:23:21 +0200 Redemption in Wagner's Ring Cycle <p><strong>Professor Richard Bell of Nottingham University gave a fascinating lecture at St Mary's in June. The text can be found here.<br/><br/>----------------------------------------------------------<br/></strong></p> <p><strong>Redemption in Wagner’s Ring cycle.</strong><strong><br/>Lecture given in St Mary’s Nottingham, 22 June 2016.<br/>Professor Richard H. Bell, University of Nottingham</strong></p> <p><strong>I The Ring of the Nibelung</strong></p> <p>Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung comprises four operas: The Rhinegold, , Siegfried, and Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung). In order to understand redemption in this vast work of around 15 hours, one has to be clear about how it evolved. The first sketch of the whole cycle was made in October 1848; this prose sketch contains many but not all of the essential elements of the final work and its purpose was to prepare for just one heroic opera, Siegfried’s Death (and Wagner produced a verse draft in November 1848). Very roughly Siegfried’s Death corresponds to what was finally to be called Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung). But over the next four years Siegfried’s Death was prefaced first by The Young Siegfried and then by The Valkyrie and The Rhinegold. And as Wagner expanded the work his view of redemption, a central theme of the drama, was to change, as we will discover later.</p> <p>But first, we must ask: what exactly is redemption (the German term is “Erlösung”)? And how would Wagner understand it?</p> <p><strong>II What is redemption (“Erlösung”)?</strong></p> <p>The fundamental source for his idea of redemption is Martin Luther’s German bible. Here we see that redemption means paying a price so as to free property or a person. The book of Leviticus chapter 25 tell us that if someone falls into financial difficulty and has to sell their property, then their next of kin should then come and redeem what the relative has sold (v. 25). That is they pay a price in order to free that property. This corresponds to our speaking of redeeming a mortgage. More interesting for our purposes of understanding redemption is the freeing of a prisoner, captive or slave by paying a ransom. We find this again in the book of Leviticus and indeed in the Ring cycle we see that the goddess Freia is ransomed in scene 4 of Rhinegold. Addressing her fellow gods (especially Wotan) she asks:</p> <p>Does Holda (ie Freia) really seem to you worthy of ransom? Dünkt euch Holda wirklich der Lösung Werth?</p> <p>She has been a prisoner of the giants, but when all the gold, tarnhelm and ring are given to the giants, Wotan exclaims to Freia “You are freed, you are bought back”; that is she is redeemed (cf. Fricka’s earlier words of Freia’s “begging silently for redemption (Erlösung)”).</p> <p>But the idea of redemption I’m going to focus on tonight is when the price paid is not gold but the price of a person’s life. For Wagner the ultimate example of such a redemption is the sacrificial death of Christ. And in the early stages of composing the Ring he wrote sketches for an opera Jesus of Nazareth. There we read:</p> <p>Jesus announces his true mission, his quality as son of God, the redemption of all peoples of the earth through him Jesus verkündigt seine wahre sendung – seine eigenschaft als gottes sohn, die erlösung aller völker durch ihn</p> <p>This idea of Jesus’ redemptive death in the sense of paying a price is expressed by St Paul who tells the Corinthian Christians on two occasions: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6.20; 7.23). However, if one then asks to whom the price was paid one can end up with some theological confusion. The Church father Origen argued that the price was paid to the devil. Others have argued the price was paid to God the father as a satisfaction. For my purposes today I assume that in such a redemptive act a price is paid but that it stretches too far the metaphor within the myth to ask to whom the price was paid. Such was the world of redemption in which Wagner was brought up. And one should never forget that Wagner was in many respects thoroughly Lutheran: he was baptised and confirmed a Lutheran. He was well acquainted with Luther’s bible; and in fact in preparation for his opera Jesus of Nazareth he worked systematically through the whole of Luther’s translation of the New Testament. His Lutheranism can be discerned not only in the Ring but also in Mastersingers and Parsifal and he took an increasing interest in Luther in the last 10 years of his life.</p> <p>Now in addition to the direct influence of Luther’s bible there may well be other sources for his understanding of redemption. Very briefly, these are Greek tragedy, Norse mythology, Shakespeare, and Goethe. But Shakespeare and Goethe themselves were heavily influenced by the bible, and when it comes to Greek tragedy and Norse mythology, Wagner had essentially “baptized” them. And as far as German idealism is concerned, redemption seemed to take a back seat. The clearest sense of redemption is found in Schopenhauer but Wagner had actually written the libretto before he came to read this philosopher (his first proper reading was in the Autumn of 1854). He did however write an alternative Schopenhauerian ending in 1856, but decided not to include this when he came to setting the words to music.</p> <p>Now the next question is what sort of redemption Wagner envisaged in the Ring and from what is one supposed to be redeemed.</p> <p><strong>III From what is one redeemed?</strong></p> <p>Anyone who has experienced the Ring cycle will see that the world is not really as it should be. Nature has been desecrated, and people are thoroughly unpleasant to each other. Indeed there is theft, betrayal and murder. Basically the world is a fallen world. One of the key themes of the Ring is original sin. The striking thing about this though is that the first sin was committed by the chief god Wotan. In the prologue to Götterdämmerung the first Norn (a fate) explains that once the World Ash Tree stood tall and strong, and in its shade was a spring from which wisdom came. But a “dauntless god”, i.e. Wotan, was so desperate to drink from this spring so he could attain wisdom, that he gave up one of his eyes. Then he broke off a branch from the sacred World Ash Tree to form his spear which came to represent his power and authority and his laws. But the wound left in the tree caused the whole mighty Ash to go rotten and the spring ran dry. Wagner’s Ring is remarkably modern and addresses many of our concerns, here, of course, the ecological crisis we now face. This is the first sin.</p> <p>The second sin is seen at the beginning of Rhinegold. Three water nymphs of the river Rhine are pursued by a dwarf, a Nibelung called Alberich; he tries to seduce each one in turn but is unsuccessful. As the sunlight shines into the deep, the gold of the river Rhine is revealed in its glory. Two of the Rhinemaidens, Wellgunde and Woglinde, let out a secret: he who renounces love will be able to fashion a ring which will give him limitless power. Alberich then curses love and steals the gold. The stage direction emphasizes the violence of this theft: “He tears the gold from the rock with terrible force”, and then adds “Impenetrable darkness suddenly descends on all sides”. Disastrous consequences are to follow.</p> <p>I’ll explain a few. Two giants, the brothers Fasolt and Fafner, have built for Wotan a castle, Valhalla. For payment they demand the gold of the river Rhine which Alberich has stolen. So Wotan in turn then steals the gold from Alberich together with the ring. But Alberich places a curse on the ring such that anyone who possesses it will come to a violent end. The power of this curse is seen almost immediately for the giants demand not just the gold but also the ring. And they fight over the ring and Fafner kills his brother Fasolt. The stage direction expresses the horror of this: “[Fafner] fells Fasolt with a single blow, then wrenches the ring from his dying brother” (WagRS 114). This may remind one of the first murder in the bible, again a fratricide, Cain killing Abel. Through the next operas whoever keeps hold of the ring comes to a violent end. So we have an original sin which leads to a series of disastrous consequences.</p> <p>In view of such original sin Wotan needs a saviour figure. But as Wagner worked on the libretto in the years 1848-52, his conception of this saviour and what this saviour figure was to achieve was to change.</p> <p><strong>IV Who is the redeemer figure?</strong></p> <p>In the first sketches of the Ring, made in October 1848, this saviour figure was to be Siegfried. Wagner wrote “He has innocently taken on the guilt of the gods”. And in this early version, Siegfried’s death was to redeem the gods and also to free the race of dwarves, the Nibelungs! And this idea of Siegfried as redeemer recurs in the various drafts of the Ring right up until the verse draft for the third opera in the Ring cycle, Siegfried (this verse draft was completed 24 June 1851). So in the final section of Act III Scene 1 Wotan tells the earth goddess Erda that Siegfried “through a free deed / takes away the guilt / which a god once initiated”. Although in the final version of the Ring published in February 1853, Siegfried’s death still has an atoning value, the striking thing is that the key redeemer figure becomes Brünnhilde. We can discern this by the fact that as Wagner made final revisions to Siegfried at the end of 1852 the lines that Siegfried “through a free deed / takes away the guilt / which a god once initiated” were removed and a highly significant new line was added. Wotan declares to Erda that their daughter Brünnhilde “will work the deed that redeems the world” (“erlösende Weltentat”).</p> <p>We have then this fundamental shift in Wagner’s development of his drama where the focus of the redeemer moves from Siegfried to Brünnhilde, and redemption moves from redemption of the gods to redemption of the world. And the way Brünnhilde emerges as this redeemer figure as the drama unfolds comes very much as a surprise in the second opera of the cycle, The Valkyrie. And it strongly suggests she is a Christ figure. Let me explain.</p> <p><strong>V Wotan’s plans to regain the ring and how they go wrong</strong></p> <p>Towards the end of the first opera, Rhinegold, as the gods are about to enter Valhalla, Wotan declares:</p> <p>Thus I salute the stronghold, safe from dread and dismay. So – grüß’ ich die Burg, sicher vor Bang und Grau’n.</p> <p>The stage direction says he sings “very resolutely, as though seized by a grandiose idea” and the so-called sword musical motif is introduced for the first time (here played by the second trumpet).</p> <p>The fascinating thing is that the words say nothing of a sword yet it is seems highly significant that the sword motif is here played and for the first time in the Ring cycle. The reason Wagner uses this is to indicate, I think, that although Wotan is entering his stronghold Valhalla he still faces danger in that Alberich could recover the ring and wage war on Wotan and Valhalla (and Wotan expresses this anxiety in The Valkyrie Act II). The sword motif points to the hero who, Wotan unconsciously hopes, will recover the ring. So we do not have the idea of the original sketch that Wotan plans a hero to redeem the gods and free the Nibelungs, but rather we have Wotan, a politician in the worst sense, who wants to recover the ring so as to rule the world. Wotan himself cannot recover the ring because he is constrained by his treaties which are etched on his spear. So he needs a hero who can act independently of Wotan. And he realizes that an army of heros in Valhalla may well come in useful. So between Rhinegold and the next opera The Valkyrie Wotan gets to work in fathering lots of children, one of whom he chooses to be “the other”, an independent hero. So who are these children? Well they are not conceived through his wife Fricka (their marriage is actually childless). The first child, conceived by Erdea, is the Valkyrie Brünnhilde who becomes Wotan’s favourite daughter. Then he fathers eight more Valkyries (the mother is not specified although many assume without justification that the mother again is Erda). The function of the Valkyries is to take heros who have fallen in the battle field to Valhalla. Then he fathers twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, by a mortal woman. His plan is that it is Siegmund, chosen to be “the other”, who will recover the ring. One day Siegmund returned home from hunting with his father Wotan (whom he knew as “Wolf”); he discovered the house burned down, his mother dead and his sister missing. This was the work of the bandits the Neidings. Siegmund and his father set out to avenge this, but he was parted from his father. Sometime later Sieglinde, his long lost twin, was forced into an unhappy marriage with Hunding (a kinsman of the Neidings). But later Wotan arranges that Siegmund finds refuge from a storm in the home of Sieglinde and Hunding. The twins fall in love, Siegmund finds the sword which his father had left for him. The twins flee and Hunding pursues them.</p> <p>At the beginning of The Valkyrie Act II Wotan tells Brünnhilde to harness her horse for there is to be a “furious fight”. She is to give victory to Siegmund – Hunding should die and Wotan adds that he does not want him in Valhalla. However, his wife Fricka, the goddess of marriage, arrives and Brünnhilde, a reminder to Fricka of Wotan’s infidelity, leaves the stage. Fricka tells Wotan that Siegmund must die. Siegmund has not only defiled a marriage but has committed incest. Wotan is eventually forced to agree to his wife’s demand. Fricka leaves. Brünnhilde, as she returns, sees that her father is deeply distressed. It is this scene depicted by Arthur Rackham in the painting I’ve used for the advertising this lecture. She says “Father! Father! Tell me what ails thee? With dismay thou art filling thy child”. Wotan tells her:</p> <p>In my own fetters<br/>I find myself caught: -<br/>I, least free of all things living! In eig’ner Fessel<br/>fing ich mich: -<br/>ich unfreiester Aller</p> <p>Brünnhilde asks him to unburden himself but Wotan fears that:</p> <p>If I let it be spoken aloud,<br/>shall I not loosen<br/>my will’s restraining hold? Lass’ ioch’s verlauten,<br/>lös’ ich dann nicht<br/>meines Willens haltenden Haft?</p> <p>Brünnhilde responds:</p> <p>To Wotan’s will you speak<br/>when you tell me what you will:<br/>who am I<br/>if not your will? Zu Wotan’s Willen sprichst du,<br/>sag’st du mir du willst:<br/>wer – bin ich,<br/>wär’ ich dein Wille nicht?</p> <p>Wotan does explain all, beginning with these significant words (unsung voices?):</p> <p>What in words I reveal to no one,<br/>let it stay<br/>unspoken for ever:<br/>with myself I commune<br/>when I speak with you. - - -</p> <p>Was Keinem in Worten ich künde,<br/>unausgesprochen<br/>bleib’ es den ewig:<br/>mit mir nur rath’ ich,<br/>red’ ich zu dir. - - -</p> <p>Whereas Siegmund is “the other” (or should we say Wotan deceives himself into thinking that he is “the other”), Brünnhilde is the very essence of his will (In fact Brünnhilde is very much an Antigone figure in the Ring and it is significant that in the Greek myth Antigone was born out of the head of her father Zeus). And so Brünnhilde very much represents her father’s will. He explains that Sigmund must die. At first she violently objects to the plan to kill Siegmund but she is forced to agree with her father’s plan. And in the next scene Brünnhilde finds Siegmund together with Sieglinde, who is exhausted and sleeping. The Valkyrie announces to Siegmund that he must die in battle but that he will come to Valhalla to be with the heros. But when he discovers that Sieglinde cannot go with him he refuses this hope of immortality. (This could reflect Feuerbach’s rejection of immortality – Wagner had read his 1830 book Thoughts on Death and Immortality). Then the fundamental change occurs in Brünnhilde’s heart. Up until now she has been this Valkyrie figure, not understanding erotic love, and being simply an expression of her father’s will. But when she sees the love between Siegmund and Sieglinde she decides to go against Wotan’s will and fight for Siegmund. But in the ensuing battle when she fights for him, Wotan comes on the scene and has to intervene to see that his only son Siegmund dies.</p> <p>The Ring is not a consistent allegory (George Bernard Shaw makes this point in his own political allegorical exploration). But at particular points in the cycle certain things strike one. We have a god who is constrained by two sorts of law: first the various treaties he has made (e.g. with the giants – so he cannot steal the ring from Fafner); secondly he has imposed law in order to create order in the world, and this is related to the law of his wife Fricka. Wotan finds himself in a mess as a result of law and sin, and discovers that the way out is to allow his own (and only) son to die. For me and I imagine for many the death of Siegmund reflects that of Christ; the significant difference though is that Siegmund’s death is not redemptive.</p> <p>I earlier said that Wotan plans for a saviour figure, but who this figure is turns out to be a surprise. For it is to be Brünnhilde, his favourite daughter. As we have seen, she shares this close and loving relationship with Wotan, so close that she is an expression his will. Her actions and will are those of her father. This of course is precisely what is emphasized in Jesus’ relation to his heavenly father in John’s gospel and the letters of Paul. But she who was an expression of Wotan’s will, now comes to be set against him. In opposing her father a series of events are set in place which lead to the redemption of the whole world. And one of the key events is Brünnhilde having to become fully human. We can speak of her incarnation.</p> <p><strong>VI Brünnhilde’s incarnation</strong></p> <p>The key sources for Wagner’s Ring were the thirteenth century Icelandic Eddas. There we see that Brünnhilde is a Valkyrie, a Valkyrie literally meaning chooser of the slain. Some Icelandic sources suggest the Valkyries are rather blood thirsty women (see Njal’s saga). However the Eddas present them as “more dignified and less blood-thirsty”. This may have happened because the poets who preserved these pagan myths and legends were themselves Christian. My contention is that Wagner has further Christianized the Valkyrie Brünnhilde. Her nobility and compassion in the second opera of the cycle are striking. Indeed she takes on attributes of the Virgin Mary and of Christ himself. In his first sketch for the Ring Wagner describes her as a “divine virgin”. Note also that whereas in the poetic Edda she is the daughter of Budli, Wagner makes her the daughter of two gods, Wotan and Erda. Further, in Doepler’s costume design for the first Ring performance of 1876, Erda looks remarkably like the Virgin Mary.</p> <p>Now the second opera of the Ring cycle is simply called The Valkyrie because Brünnhilde ends up being the focus of the work, and the fundamental turning point is when she is deeply moved on seeing Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde. And for Wagner true love is erotic love, and such love is fundamentally sacrificial. And perhaps it is worth saying that the disjunction some theologians make between eros and agape love is, I think, highly misleading.</p> <p>Now when Brünnhilde perceives the true sacrificial nature of this erotic love the twins have for each other, she turns against her father’s command that Siegmund should die in the battle.</p> <p>In Act III of Valkyrie she defends her disobedience to her father. But despite this defence she offers, Wotan is insistent that he has to punish her. She will no longer ride with Wotan and will be banned from Valhalla. She loses her Valkyrie status (which you could describe as divine – both father and mother are gods); she is to become fully human.</p> <p>It is not explicit in The Valkyrie that Brünnhilde is the redeemer figure but it is clear in the next two operas, Siegfried and Twilight of the gods. But musically there are many indications in The Valkyrie that Brünnhilde will redeem the world. The final scene of The Valkyrie expresses the end of law and the beginning of love. The law is expressed by Wotan’s spear on which his various treatises are etched. This is a downward scale (see handout). Now Wotan’s spear is not physically broken until Siegfried Act III scene 2, when he is confronted by his grandson Siegfried. But there is a musical indication in The Valkyrie Act III, just after the exit of her 8 Valkyrie sisters, that Wotan’s spear is being broken. In the example on the handout you will see that in the first two bars we have the motif often called “fate” but which has a very specific identity in The Valkyrie and Siegfried. There it denotes mutual recognition. The use of the motif here is appropriate since Brünnhilde goes on to plead to her father “Look in my eyes” (stave four). Then in the bass of bar two we have the motif of Siegmund’s rebellion. We first hear this when Siegmund refuses the eternal bliss of Valhalla in Act II. This theme is then repeated in the next 6 bars. Its use here refers to the fact that Brünnhilde is defending her support for Siegmund in his rebellion. Then if you take Brünnhilde’s entry, you essentially have Wotan’s descending spear motif which is broken. So she sings E D C then rather than singing the B below she jumps up to the higher octave. Then she descends A G F# E then jumps up to the D above. Wotan’s law (which can be almost equated with Wotan’s power) is thus challenged by the Valkyrie who has come to recognize that the key to the world is not love of power but rather the power of love.</p> <p>The end of The Valkyrie presents us with a remarkable irony. Brünnhilde is punished by her father for her disobedience. He appears to be the one with power. It is finally decided that she will be deprived of her Valkyrie status: no longer will she ride beside her father Wotan; she will no longer be with him in Valhalla. As punishment she will be put to sleep on the rock where they now find themselves; whoever awakens her will be her husband. The only consolation for her is that the one who awakens her will be a fearless hero since only such a person will be able to penetrate through the fire which will surround her rock. The key theological point is that Brunnhilde undergoes an incarnation. She loses her Valkyrie status. Wotan’s final words to his beloved daughter are:</p> <p>And so – the god<br/>turns away from you:<br/>so he kisses your godhead away. Denn so – kehrt<br/>der Gott sich dir ab:<br/>so küßt er die Gottheit von dir.</p> <p>His kiss then sends her to sleep. And the irony is this. A correlate of Brünnhilde’s “incarnation” is that Wotan’s power and his law begin to be diminished. One of Wagner’s helpers at the rehearsals of the first performance of the Ring in 1876 was Heinrich Porges, and he made notes on Wagner’s comments as he directed rehearsals. He writes: “A remark of Wagner’s that has an important bearing on the action must be cited: at the end, ‘And so – the god / turns away from you: / so he kisses your godhead away’ (‘Denn so kehrt der Gott sich dir ab, so küsst er die Gottheit von dir’), one must for the first time see Wotan’s spear slipping from his hand!”</p> <p>Although this is a very sad scene, and when you watch The Valkyrie all the way through, at the end you either weep or try hard to hold back the tears. Yet the Act ends in a major key, that of E major! Yes it is very sad, but the major key and the whole atmosphere of the scene I think points forward to a future redemption. And the prerequisite of this redemption is Brünnhilde’s incarnation. There is a great cost to her incarnation. When Brünnhilde is awakened with the kiss of Siegfried in the next opera, although at first she expresses great joy, she also mourns the loss of her Valkyrie status. There is that remarkable passage in Siegfried Act III Scene 3 when the hero is overcome with passion, but Brünnhilde responds by lamenting the loss of her Valkyrie status as she looks on her helmet, breastplate and spear. Further, she has not only lost her armour but also her wisdom. She has passed this on to Siegfried (who does not seem to make great use of it!). Brünnhilde in her incarnation becomes vulnerable. And in the final opera of the cycle, Götterdämmerung, she is betrayed by Siegfried and she, in Wagner’s words, becomes “God forsaken”. So in Act II she cries to the gods whom she feels are punishing her:</p> <p>Hallowed gods!<br/>Heavenly rulers!<br/>Was this what you whispered<br/>within your council?<br/>Would you teach me suffering<br/>as none yet suffered? Heil’ge Götter!<br/>Himmlischer Lenker!<br/>Rauntet ihr dieß<br/>in eurem Rath?<br/>Lehrt ihr mich Leiden<br/>wie keiner sie litt?</p> <p>But at the end of Götterdämmerung the world comes to be redeemed by her death and by that of Siegfried. Siegfried’s death comes about through Hagan’s devious plan. Brünnhilde though offers herself as a voluntary sacrifice. This is the deed which redeems the world. The world is redeemed by the double sacrifice of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Both of them can be seen as Christ figures. In his writings Wagner often links Siegfried to Christ. Many no doubt have difficulty with this idea since Siegfried is clearly an inspiration for Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” (superman). But as Siegfried’s death approaches, Christ-like images do appear. Shortly before he dies he utters “I thirst” (“Mich dürstet”), exactly the words of the dying Christ in Luther’s translation of John 19.28. Also the rhythm Wagner employs corresponds to that used in Bach’s St John passion; and the melodic shape also corresponds. Further, the stage direction says: “Siegfried has placed himself between Hagan and Gunther”. Compare the scene of crucifixion in Luke 23.39-43, Christ being crucified between two others. So if I’m not reading too much into this scene in Götterdämmerung, Hagan corresponds to the unrepentant crucified one; Gunther is the repentant one.</p> <p>Now whatever we may feel about Siegfried’s shortcomings as a hero, he does come into his own at his death. But the most striking Christ figure is Brünnhilde who, as I have argued, undergoes an incarnation, and voluntarily lays down her life so that a new earth and a new heaven come into being. The opera Jesus of Nazareth I discussed earlier was never completed. But many of the ideas of the projected work end up on the stage of the Ring cycle. And if my analysis is correct then Wagner’s Ring cycle can be seen as a Christian allegory. It speaks of original sin, the world being out of joint, but then goes on to present to us the redemption which Siegfried and especially Brünnhilde work through their atoning deaths.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:22:44 +0200