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Dear Friends,

Over the festive period there were several occasions when the link between traditional and modern / contemporary styles of worship became apparent. There are some parishioners in our team who have a definite preference, family services are very popular but there are many who also like traditional worship such as Evensong. Over Christmas we had Carol Services but also a pop-up nativity service. Obviously, there isn’t a right or wrong and many of us enjoy a full range of worship styles. Interestingly when the Church of England commissioned some research into this, they found that what seemed to matter to the congregation was not the type of service but the quality of it.

At a family service on the first Sunday of Advent we gave consideration to the Magnificat, “Song of Mary”. How, at a very contemporary style of service aimed specifically at families, did we find ourselves considering a canticle (song of praise taken from biblical or holy text) taken from The Book of Common Prayer? Well, as it was Advent we were looking forward towards Christmas and we reflected upon how Mary, this young woman, would have been feeling. Not only young, but from simple circumstances and not married, living in a very traditional society. On visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, Mary greeted Elizabeth and at that moment Elizabeth’s baby moved in her womb. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”” Luke 1 42 – 44. At this point Mary gave a beautiful reply which I cannot do justice to here but suffice to say, her reply is called the Magnificat, or sometimes The Song of Mary, Luke 1 46 – 55, I would love you to revisit it. Now, the Magnificat can be sung as a traditional canticle, of which there are many compositions such as that of Bach, Stanford and Rutter. However, there are also many contemporary compositions which are just as beautiful and speak more readily to some young people. I particularly like the Magnificat sung by Kairy Marquez (Youtube) which is interesting as she sings in Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish!

Where am I going with all this? Well, that we can all be brought closer to Christ through traditional or contemporary worship. That, just as there is a temptation to be critical of traditional worship, the same applies to contemporary and rather than comparing we should be celebrating both. The Magnificat has been sung for centuries and we should honour and enjoy the many traditional compositions but we can also enjoy modern compositions. What matters of course is the meaning of this beautiful heartfelt song, sung by a humble young woman and how this song with whatever music is used, brings us closer to Christ.