Three days at the Society of St Gregory Summer School – by kind invitation…

We’ve been so looking forward to this, but it’s not easy to explain why to someone who isn’t a) a Catholic, b) a singer and c) a veteran of SSG Summer Schools. Still worth a try, though…

First, what is the SSG? Well, it was founded to promulgate and encourage the use of Gregorian chant in the Roman Catholic church. And yes, if you’re into Gregorian chant that’s something we still do. Sometimes.

More recently – in particular following the major earthquake in Catholicism following the Second Vatican Council – the SSG has focused on the liturgy. On the experience of worship, including readings, hymns, musical settings of the Mass, symbols, and everything else that turns words on paper into an actual, sensual experience where all can take an active part.

Which is quite some agenda.

The annual summer school brings together people from all over the country – and beyond – who play a part in church worship and want to play that part better and more effectively. It’s pretty ecumenical these days, too. If that doesn’t sound like much fun, then I’d better explain why it is.

Imagine a church service – any church service – where everyone wants to sing – in parts, at sight (if necessary), and well. Where the whole environment encourages thought, reflection and prayer. Where readings are proclaimed with care and attention to every word and every nuance of meaning. Where every single person in the room is focused, concentrating, participating, contributing.

Where all are serving the good of all.

Well, short of standing among the angel choir in front of the throne, that’s as close to heaven as you’re likely to get in this world.

Which is why Rosemary and I have attended whenever we possibly could. Learned much. Made many wonderful friends. And enjoyed a few days of prayer, worship and fun in a blissfully positive environment. (The Big Sing in the evenings, when we all sing just about anything, in as many parts as you like, from sight, is an experience never to be forgotten! And as for the concert – well, let’s just say that the raw talent, boundless energy, and unexpected twists of humour are just something else…) 

This year we’d reluctantly decided not to go – rampant inflation and spiralling energy prices meant we simply couldn’t afford it.

But we didn’t have to. Because we were invited. As guests.

And – as it turned out – by the time we arrived I’d had my diagnosis.

Never, ever, have I needed those few days of heaven more…

Liturgy preparation (you can spot me in the middle there…) led by Paul Wellicome. We haven’t quite got this yet, but it’ll be fine when we actually sing it as part of the liturgy…