It was a great privilege to be invited to join in the Christingle service at Westminster Abbey, organised for local school children by the Children’s Society. I had a fabulous time, warmly welcomed by the Children’s Society staff, who are an amazing group of people.
There were about 750 children taking part in the service – an amazing sight when all those oranges were ignited. They were so quiet and well-behaved – I guess they’d had the fear of, well, something, put into them by their teachers (imagine being told off in Westminster Abbey! The shame! The ignominy!) But I have to confess that something in me wanted them to be more childlike, … messier?
Perhaps there’s a place for well-ordered ranks of silent worshippers and maybe that place is Westminster Abbey. Certainly the instant obedience and cooperation was a great relief with all those naked flames around, and even I would hesitate to provide crafts, sausage and mash, and clear up for 750 people. But we sang ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ and one poor child put in the clap on her own… once… then probably died of shame and mortification. After that, we all sang neatly and tidily. And nobody – nobody! – ate their dolly mixtures in the Abbey. Gosh.
Regulations, respectfulness, humility and awe have their place, and one of the great things about Anglicanism is the breadth of styles of worship, but I wonder if Westminster Abbey ever gets the chance to be metaphorically gluey and glittery? Or is that the privilege of other churches? We should pray for the church that gathers in the Abbey, who perhaps don’t have the freedom that other churches take for granted.