It’d been just over twenty years since I was last in Windsor. My happy memories include walking down the river bank into town, over the bridge to Eton, up the hill towards the town centre and the castle. The (railway?) museum, the infrequent trains into London. Going into Slough (come friendly bombs and drop on ... The Office!) to catch a faster train to the capital. The carved totem pole in Windsor Great Park. The elaborate dolls house display inside Windsor Castle. And choral evensong in the adjoining St George’s Chapel.
And it was to St George’s Chapel we decanted on Saturday evening for a slice of high church. Last time I’d been there it was summertime, so the chapel was bright, with the sun coming in through the stained glass windows.
But on Saturday, it was dark by teatime, and the main illumination came from the little lights on the choir stalls. Ushered in to take our places, the choir processed it, and evensong began. It’s only when you get to your seat and look back into the central aisle you realise that you walked over the grave of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII, not to mention Charles I.
It’s participation light. All stand. Listen. All remain standing. A long impenetrable Psalm is sung – or was it a long Psalm sung impenetrably? All sit. Etc. All kneel.
Prayer for The Queen. Fair enough. It is the monarch’s chapel ... set aside from the Church of England in its own world.
Prayer for the Order of the Garter. It is their chapel. One of the seats was out of bounds, with a wreath above it: Sir Edmund Hillary who died less than a fortnight ago was a member of the order.
A prayer for soldiers serving in Iraq.
And then the jaw-dropping moment as they added a prayer for the BBC Trust, the media, those with influence in society. Wonder how often your local church prays for the media? Come to think of it, how often do they remember those serving in the line of fire?
Then ... All stand. And finally, we get to say the benediction and sing. Yes, actual congregational singing! Though O Jesus, I have promised did contrast wildly with Magnificat and Ninc dimittis! Finally, some participation. Some chance to get past listening to singing and chanting (the Amens were the best) to take part.
Update: Turns out that Choral Evensong is being broadcast on Radio 3, on Wednesdays (live) at 4pm, and repeated on Sunday afternoons (also at 4pm). Due to come from St George's Chapel on Palm Sunday - 16 March.