Ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral
Last Sunday after finishing my shift at St James’s Piccadilly (where I work as a verger) I went along to the cathedral to witness Julia, St Peter’s vicar, being made a Prebendary of St Paul’s. I took my robes on the tube and arrived nice and early to find the spot where the clergy and ministers were meeting at 3 pm. It was in the Dean’s aisle, on the right side of the cathedral, behind a curtain where the clergy and choir gather before services.
As I walked down the south aisle, I saw Julia rehearsing near the choir stalls. After getting robed up and standing around for a few minutes I spotted other clergy putting on their preaching bands and dressing up in ornate pink and gold copes. The duty verger then looked around for a couple of people to help with the procession. There must be some sort of radar system vergers pick up on our wands – or our ‘verges’ as we are supposed to call them. Because the duty verger quickly spotted me and took a couple of us into the quire to explain how the procession would flow.
Once everyone was lined up, and with the choir in toe, we processed into the open space under the dome of the cathedral, singing the first hymn and sweeping into the nave and up into the stalls, passing the central altar and two magnificent candles.
The music was divine. Julia knelt at the feet of Bishop Pete, the Acting Bishop of London and swore an allegiance to her majesty the Queen as she became a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral, in the Stall of Islington. Prebends are invited to preach at the cathedral once a year and are given a portion of psalms to recite each day. Julia’s allotted psalms are 126 – 131 and so we should encourage her in her daily reciting! Prebends also take part in life of the cathedral, something which Julia already does as a duty chaplain.
At the end of the service Julia was given a bun, after the procession had filed out back and the curtains were closed, payment was given – a roll for a role. Yes, that’s right – a bread roll, a bun. Although she said would have preferred an iced bun, it was in fact a savoury one. In times past, Prebends would have been given an expanse of land – areas for their care, for the cure of souls and in the land would be the people whom she would preach to. However, as times have changed a bun is now given as payment for the role of Prebendary.
An occasion such as last Sunday’s recognises Julia’s ministry and her faithfulness not only to this parish, but also the part she plays in the life of this diocese.
It strengthens the links between the cathedral and parish churches like St Peter De Beauvoir.