This is probably my penultimate Blog on the reinterment of King Richard III – I expect I’ll do one more afterwards, to reflect then on how it feels in the immediate aftermath. But for now it’s a slightly bizarre feeling as on the one hand last minute preparations are all around, and on the other life slows to a unite-ticking crawl, as we get past the point of planning, and not quite to the moment of realisation. So what’s been happening, and how does it feel?
Going back a week or so takes us to Red Nose Day – which began with the team marking Emma’s birthday with breakfast at our newly opened local Peter’s Pizzeria. And a few Red Nose decorations of our own.
Happy birthday, Emma. It’s been quite a couple of years since you graduated from Leicester Uni!
Over the weekend I was one of the selected few invited to witness the coffining of the remains of the king. This has been written about by the University – which is just as well, since all of us present signed a Non-disclosure Agreement not to talk abut what we saw. Some who weren’t present have since offered misdescriptions of what happened, but whilst several of us there may well have been saying our prayers silently, even without breaking my Agreement I can be clear that the event was conducted in the manner in which it had been described in advance – dignified and solemn, and without religious ceremony of any kind. And profoundly moving, all the same. It is but an accident of history that put me in that room for those moments, but it did feel as though the reinterment had really got under way, and i was privileged to play a small part in it.
Then this week has been a succession of final items coming into the Cathedral, any one of which on its own might have been the cause of major comment. Coming all at once, they almost tumbled each other into relative insignificance!
On Saturday Jacquie Binns came up, bringing with her the Pall she has designed and embroidered for Richard’s coffin. You’ll all see it soon enough next week, but i can assure you I wasn’t at all disappointed at the detail of the workmanship, the vibrancy of the colours and the texture of the velvet cloth it’s all sewn onto.
Then on Monday it was the new cathedra – Bishop’s seat – with its dramatic looming cross over the head of the chair, and the striking multi-coloured leather padding on the seat. It’s already excited a lot of comment online, from those who love it to those who are determined it doesn’t belong in our cathedral in any way at all. A real marmite sort of seat in fact. I’m definitely in the ‘love it’ camp – and I wonder what the world’s viewing public will make of it come the weekend and beyond.
On Tuesday it was the turn of our Interpretation materials to arrive. This includes nine vertical panels which will sit around the cathedral in the days to come after reinterment – helping our visitors reflect on the ‘inner story’ of Richard’s life and ours, in contrast to the more historical, educational and scientific account given in the Visitor Centre over the road. There’s also the display case for the Pall and Crown that will feature in events next week, and another for the modern book of hours, the originals of the pictures painted by local school-children, inspired by Richard’s own Book of Hours – which will itself stand alongside his coffin on its day of reinterment. There’s also a wonderful new display stand for our medieval oak chest, publicly thanking the most generous of the donors to our £2.5m Appeal.
By Wednesday work crews had filled the place with scaffolding, putting up the high gantries for the TV lights. Today they had to stop as the organ tuner needed relative issuance to do his thing before the big services of the weekend.
But nothing stopped James Elliott and his team bringing in the new altar-table – a picture of it arriving at our front door heads this Blog. It then found its way into the centre of the sanctuary, where it will now stand at the heart of the new-look cathedral. Clad in alabaster that only a few weeks ago was still deep in the bowels of the earth, it is a thing of beauty and wonder – and probably the hardest commission James has ever made. Or so he told me today.
Earlier today I stood in the middle of the Cathedral, as an altar was manoeuvred into place, workmen ran lighting cables around the floors, vergers moved things here and there, volunteers welcomed visitors form all over the place, and then songmen practised for choral evensong, and I thought – ‘This must be how it was in the days of the building of the great medieval cathedrals. All trades at work around one focus – witnessing to the glory of God through the multi-faceted glories of human endeavour.’
So the day came towards its an end with choral evensong sung by the songmen (as opposed to our various younger choirs). And as the beautiful notes soared into the high ceilings, and as David read the the Old Testament passage for the day (remembering Joseph, Carpenter of Nazareth, and foster-father extraordinaire) which was the story of the carrying of Joseph’s bones from Egypt into their promised land, and as I sang the prayers and responses used over centuries to encapsulate the prayers and pleas of the faithful, I closed my eyes and marvelled at how great it was just to be a part of it.
In one way, we’re poised ready on our mark, waiting for all that is to follow. In another way, we’re doing no more than we’re always called to do. Live life a day at a time, taking what it brings, rejoicing in the good, and looking to combat the bad, walking through the present in the light of eternity. It’s true, these coming days will be a bit more special for us here, and those who join in with us. Then after those will come days more ordinary, when there’ll still be more good to rejoice in, and still more bad to do battle with. The special just highlights the importance of the ordinary. But that these coming days will be special, nobody can deny!
Oh yes – and it rather looks as though we’ve just about met our Appeal target as well in the last few days. Which is nice.
Originally published on http://www.leicestercathedralkingrichardiii.org/on-your-marks-get-set/