Johan Bergström-Allen delivers homily
A special celebration of Evensong took place at York Minster on Sunday, to mark 800 years since King John signed the charter that was an important step in giving civil rights to the citizens of York. Throughout the year the city is celebrating ‘York800’ with a wide range of events.
At the heart of the events was the ‘Charter Weekend’ in early July when the actual anniversary of the charter-signing took place. York Minster’s celebration of Evensong during the ‘Charter Weekend’ gave Christians of many different denominations the opportunity to join in thanksgiving, brought together by the ecumenical group Churches Together in York (www.churchestogetherinyork.org.uk).
More than 30 different churches, chapels, religious communities and charities processed together into the Minster Quire to symbolise York’s widespread and diverse Christian presence which enriches the city’s social fabric. Many different Christians traditions were represented, including Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Quaker, Evangelical and Free Churches.
Among the many different churches, communities and charities represented were: Churches Together in York, Riding Lights, York Mystery Plays, CAFOD, Anglican City Centre Churches, Carmelite Friars, Knights of St. Columba, St. Anne’s Orthodox Community, the University of York Ecumenical Chaplaincy, St George’s and St Wilfrid’s Catholic Churches, Feed The Minds, York Quakers, Street Angels, Spurriergate Centre, Order of the Holy Paraclete, Thicket Carmelite Priory, The Bar Convent, One Voice, and St Martin-le-Grand Community of the Cross of Nails, HCPT Pilgrimage Trust, St John the Evangelist Church Easingwold, Heslington Taizé Group, York Community Chaplaincy , Youth With A Mission, York Carmelite Spirituality Group, Orthodox Community of St Constantine and St Helen.
The Quire of the Minster was full with some 400 worshippers, including the Lord Mayor of York and Civic Party, accompanied by two guests from York’s twin city of Dijon. All were welcomed by Canon Peter Moger, Precentor of York Minster. Sung worship was led by the Choir of York Minster under the direction of Robert Sharpe, the Minster’s Director of Music, and the organ was played by David Pipe, Assistant Director.
The first lesson from Scripture, recounting the story of the ill-fated city of Babel, was read by the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Keith Hyman. The second lesson from Scripture, a vision of the perfect city of the New Jerusalem, was read by Mrs Juliet Wright, Chaplain to the Lord Mayor of York.
The sermon was preached by Mr Johan Bergström-Allen, a lay member of the Carmelite Order who is Chair of Churches Together in York. After updating people on the state of play at the Wimbledon final (he said a little angel was keeping him informed!) he spoke about what it means to be a city. Johan cited Babel as a Biblical model of a bad city, in which the inhabitants were oblivious of the outside world, and in which there was no social diversity. He contrasted this with the Biblical model of the New Jerusalem as the perfect city in which human beings flourish not by denying the differences between them but by celebrating their diversity which is united in God. Johan highlighted the important role that Christianity has played and continues to play in the city of York, expressed sorrow for the times when Christians have failed to live up to the ideals of their faith, and invited people of good will to recommit to building a society that celebrates and upholds civil rights and responsibilities.
Prayers for York were then led by representatives of the city and its churches, including: Reverend Jane Nattrass (Anglican City Centre Churches), Father Stephen Robson (St. Anne’s Orthodox Community), Kersten England (Chief Executive of City of York Council), Father Antony Lester (Carmelite Friars), Reverend Chris Cullwick (York Community Chaplaincy), and Sister Ann Stafford (Congregation of Jesus at The Bar Convent).
As an act of solidarity between the different Churches, the final blessing was given by Canon Peter Moger (York Minster), Reverend Annie Borthwick (Church of England), Reverend Christopher Humble (Methodist Church) and Canon Michael Ryan (Roman Catholic Church).
It was a powerful and moving service, marking an important moment in the life of York, and celebrating the contribution that people of faith make to civic society.
The Civic Party gathered after the service with representatives of York’s Christian Churches, communities and charities.