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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Discover & explore service series

We have recently reviewed our Discover & explore services at St Stephen Walbrook. The past four terms of Discover & explore services using the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields have been service series of musical discovery using music and liturgy to explore themes of: 
  • Spring 2016 - hope, faith , life, love, dreams, joy, truth and soul (based on Eric Whitacre’s anthem Faith, hope, life, love); 
  • Summer 2016 - the lives and thought of the Saints (Julian of Norwich, St Stephen, Venerable Bede, St Columba, St Martin of Tours, St John the Baptist, St Peter); 
  • Autumn 2016 – stewardship and finance (Time, Talents, Treasure/Gold, Guidance, Promises, Safety, Money, and Security); and
  • Spring 2017 - significant figures in the history of St Stephen Walbrook (John Dunstable, Music; Sir Christopher Wren, Architecture; Thomas Watson, Preaching; Sir John Vanbrugh, Drama; Thomas Wilson, Patronage; George Croly, Poetry; George Griffin Stonestreet, Insurance; Robert S. de Courcey Laffan, Sport; Chad Varah, Charity; Henry Moore, Sculpture; Lanning Roper, Gardening; Patrick Heron, Art; Peter Delaney, Internet).
Themes are agreed between the clergy and music teams involved in these services. In selecting themes we seek to make connections with both the church and the City. We also seek to connect our themes to art exhibitions in the church, where connections are possible (e.g. Soul, which related to a digital installation by Michael Takeo Magruder). Future themes will include Reformation500 and Roman London.

Each service includes:
  • Opening responses;
  • 4 anthems;
  • 2 hymns;
  • 1 Bible reading;
  • 1 other reading;
  • Reflective Address;
  • Intercessions (with a sung and a spoken response); and
  • Blessing.
Services are planned by our clergy team together with the Deputy Director of Music, Organ at St Martin-in-the-Fields, who directs the Choral Scholars at St Stephen Walbrook. Occasionally, we invite guests to give the reflection on the theme e.g. Carolyn Rosen (ordinand, Westcott House) spoke about Soul and Claire Paine (Christian Aid) spoke on St Stephen.

The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields gain a great deal from the opportunity to sing for the Discover and Explore services. Musically, they are able to explore an enormous variety of repertoire because the service structure includes four anthems (whereas conventional services such as evensong contain only one anthem). The vast spectrum of themes for the services allows for really creative music selections and the opportunity for the scholars to enjoy building a wider repertoire. In addition to the musical benefits, the Scholars also gain the experience of a different style of liturgy in the Discover and Explore series which contrasts and complements the services they sing at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

A selection of those attending (including new attendees) have commented that:
  • ‘They are thought-provoking and inspiring services and the music is amazing.’ 
  • ‘I really enjoy the Discover and Explore Services. I find the atmosphere very peaceful and the beautiful music enhances that feeling. I like the fact that it is a different type of service and there is time to contemplate and pray.’
  • ‘I personally like the Discover & Explore services very much. I will admit that I have a great love of choral music so the service format is winner on that ground alone for me. However looking at it objectively, I like the format very much. It hits the right note of a serious but lighter touch, but it is not too light. I like the idea of taking a topic and shaping the rest of the service around that theme. It’s great for example to have excerpts from Shakespeare. The length is right too. I come to church amongst other reasons to think, reflect and learn and I feel this service format is excellent.’
  • ‘Discover & explore brings me into the City. Entering the church feels like entering another world – one which is, though, very much part of its surrounds as well. The thing I most enjoy is hearing the choir’s anthems in a historical site whose acoustics are perfect for that. That said, I probably wouldn’t make the effort if it were just concerts: I like the integration of the music into the themes of the reflections and readings as well. It’s a coherent entity. And the emphasis this term on figures from St. Stephen’s history, the collaboration with the Guildhall Art Gallery – those are the kinds of things that ground the series in its community. But again, the extraordinarily high quality of the music is what really draws me in. I would feel like I’d wasted a wonderful opportunity if I didn’t come to Discover & explore!’ 
  • ‘I discovered this treasure recently. The choir fills the Dome, as does the tiny organ. I am a keen singer and in that space feel (in the hymns) you are with the choir. The service sheet is very good and I was signed up on first visit to reading. The weekly foci are interesting and often relate to remarkable previous incumbents.’
  • ‘The Discover & Explore format is great - sorry I haven't made it before! You are v fortunate to have the choir in the week! Even better in real life today. Lunchtime service @StStephenEC4N with choral scholars from @smitf_london conducted by @JeremyColeUK.’
Discover & explore is therefore proving effective in developing our mission and outreach as a church.


Thomas Tallis - If Ye Love Me.

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