United Guilds Service, St. Pauls

Friday 31st March 2017

Grateful that perhaps the stirrup cup the previous night had eluded me, we were 'up betimes' to meet the Clerk, Senior Warden and others at Stationers' Hall at 10am to gown up prior to the short walk to St. Paul's via Paternoster Square. This service was inaugurated in 1943 by way of thanks for surviving the Blitz and showing that, despite all, we don't let minor things such as a European War get us down - plus ca change! No procession is needed for this service so we found our pew - ranked in strict order of precedence, so as number 82 we were about 40 rows back from the Great Twelves at the front. Every Master sits on the aisle side of his Livery row so a run of fur and chain flanks the processional route, then the Clerk, and then Wardens in order followed by any Livery members. We had about ten in total. At 11am a fanfare let us know something was happening and a magnificent procession passed down the aisle - each Master of the Great Twelve accompanied by a mace bearer with tricorn hat etc., followed by the clergy led by a choir, and then, finally, the Lord Mayor preceded by the Great Mace and Sword of the City of London. It was a beautiful service with superb choral music and enjoyable rather less usual hymns. The address by the Bishop of Southwark was excellent, with many clever modern references, we all much enjoyed it. The Lord Mayor read a lesson so well that several people commented on his timing and inflection.It all lasted about an hour and at the end the procession (shorter this time as the choir had a faster exit) exited and then we had the "general shambles" that occurs at this point - this is where about 1000 people, most in gowns, try and get out of two small doors to make their lunch appointments! It's the same every year and is as much part of the tradition as the orderly procession itself.. We finally broke free to find a fine morning had developed and the tourists snapping away like crazy. We beat a hasty retreat back to Stationers'....