Praise God in his sanctuary!

York MinsterJust returned from a very enjoyable weekend in York, home of the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster (right; click image for larger version, click here for full-size, 900 KB version).

My uncle (with whom we were staying) sings in the Minster choir, and I attended evensong on the Saturday and the main Eucharist yesterday morning.

It may sound a little unfortunate putting it like this, but the best part of the Eucharist service at York Minster is always the end of it. The service ends with the blessing; then we sing the final hymn; as the hymn ends, the organ continues ex tempore as the choir begins to process out. And then, as the choir reaches the main part of the nave, the organ falls silent; and then this happens (MP3, 460 KB).

This is the Revd G.S. Talbot’s setting of Psalm 150, and the linked version is a 30-second excerpt from the version on the St Paul’s Cathedral complete psalms collection (sadly, linking the whole thing would be pushing my luck, copyright-wise). The choir continues to sing the psalm as it processes round into the north aisle and disappears east beyond the screen, with the music fading gradually into the distance. The service ends in the same way every week, it’s unique to York Minster, and it’s one of the most powerful musical (and spiritual) experiences you’ll ever have.

It’s also precisely how Psalm 150 should be used in the church’s worship. As I’ve said before, Psalm 150 is not about whipping ourselves up into a fervour; it is about releasing the joy and thankfulness that builds up in our hearts as we recall God’s goodness towards us. That is why Psalm 150 comes at the very end the psalter, and that is why it is the perfect conclusion to the Eucharist.

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2 Responses to Praise God in his sanctuary!

  1. Ranjeeta says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the Minster choir singing Psalm 150. I’ve just moved to York for a year and hea them singing Psalm 150 every Sunday. The first time I heard it I cried

  2. J Cobban says:

    After a red-eye flight from Canada we arrived in York to find that our hotel room wasn’t ready yet. What to do at 10 am on a Sunday morning? We attended morning service at the Minster. The PA system used for the readings and homily was terrible, but the music echoed and soared. And this recessional was amazing. We went to the Chapter House after the service for coffee where the angelic little choir boys ate all the cookies, and turned out to be human afterall.

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