Sons & Friends of the Clergy, St. Paul's

Tuesday 9th May 2017

This was the 363rd Festival of this clerical charity that supports the families of clergy in straightened circumstances – it has a long record of activity going back to 1655 - the date is no coincidence as it was set up for clergy who, having remained loyal to the King, had lost their livings and become destitute. It was a gown and gong processional affair so I arrived a little earlier and tackled our vault at Stationers' where the Mistress tied on the chain of office etc and we walked over to St. Paul’s in lovely spring sunshine. It’s a service where everyone sits in different locations, so consorts are located somewhere, Clerks somewhere else, Liverymen somewhere else too.. Meeting up with a large body of Masters donning gowning, we were asked to organise ourselves in reverse order and duly processed to our allotted rows which we found by more chance than design in the event! A little later the civic procession came up the aisle, which included the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu and, as as the Lord Mayor was absent in the Channel Islands, we had a ‘Lord Mayor Locum Tenens’ – someone taking his place, I think it might have been Sheriff Peter Estlin but wasn’t sure. This service was supported by two cathedral choirs in addition to the ‘house band’ and so at 5pm, after a fanfare sounded, the combined strengths of St. Paul's, Chichester and Chester Cathedrals (one lot dressed in Puritan collars rather than ruffs) sang the inexpressibly beautiful ‘Crucifixus’ by Antonio Lotti from the back of the cathedral before processing in during the following hymn. During the course of the service each choir had its moment in the spotlight before rejoiingn a trois for a combined finale. Dr. Sentamu gave the sermon and I recall enjoying it, but can’t now recall much more about it except he ended by asking us for more money! The whole thing lasted an hour and a half at the end of which we processed back out - the place was far fuller than I recall it being on the way in. After a short hiatus, I returned my gown to the vault and we got a cab to Merchant Taylors’ Hall for the reception and dinner…