Every Easter I look back with growing nostalgia for the years I spent worshiping at St Thomas, Huron Street in Toronto. It was a place of incredible music, ritual, faith and friendship – particularly friendship. It was a congregation of people who cared. Yes the ritual was splendid – banners, smells and bells – but it was also a congregation that reached out into its neighborhood and worked to provide services for the students, working parents and elderly. Worship didn’t end at the communion rail of a Sunday.
During my time there the music was directed by Walter McNutt – an organist of incredible skill at improvisation and a remarkable service player. His wonderful choir – boys, women and men – sang a mixture of the traditional and the more adventuresome but you knew that certain hymns would be sung at certain times of the year.
Without fail the Easter vigil would always end with Francis Pott’s translation of the old Latin hymn Finita jam sunt praelia. And it would always be the setting called Victory – an adaptation by William H. Monk of Palestrina’s Magnificat Tertii Toni.
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
As I was making this video memories of processing out of the sanctuary with the clergy and choir came to mind. Hearing individual voices in the congregation that I recognized as I walked past them exchanging smiles and nods: my darling Elizabeth with her bass voice gruffing away, Gail, her glasses slipping down as she bowed every so slightly in greeting, Winnie, a small Dresden china figure who had lived all her 80 years in the parish and still wore a hat with a veil and gloves to church; Don with his great booming CBC announcer voice; so many more dear loving and much loved friends.
I was asked recently if I missed the church and in many ways I do. Yes, for the ritual, for the music, for the comfort that faith brought but mostly for the friendship which brought both comfort and love.
For them all: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
And in my heart and mind I can still hear them respond: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
04 aprile – Il resurrezione di nostro Signore