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This Is Our Story: Mothering Sunday

This is our story - Dean Vivienne Faull celebrates Mothering Sunday live from York Minster as the fourth of our Lent series linking stories of faith from the the bible with life today. With members of the Mothers Union in York. Leader: The Revd Canon Peter Moger; Graham Bier directs the chamber choir The 24. Organist: Robert Sharpe. Download Lent resources from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland by logging on to; Producer: Simon Vivian.

40 minutes

Last on

Sun 10 Mar 2013 08:10

Sunday Worship - York Minster - 10/03/13

Detailed Order


Radio 4 Opening Anno      


BBC Radio 4.  'This is our story' – is the theme for Sunday Worship during Lent which this morning comes live from York Minster.  The preacher is the Dean of York, The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull and the service which is led by the Precentor, The Reverend Canon Peter Moger begins with the hymn, Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord!





            Hymn                          Tell out, my soul – Tune: Woodlands (NEH 186)


Welcome                    Good morning and welcome to York Minster.  A church has stood on this site since the early 7th century.  But the foundations of the magnificent gothic building we worship in this morning date from the late 11th century.  Since then, in its majesty and stillness, pilgrims from around the world have experienced something of the greatness of the Lord.


                                    This morning we are joined by The 24 – a chamber choir based at the University of York for the fourth of the Radio 4 Sunday Worship Lent series of services in association with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.  Today is Mothering Sunday when churches up and down the land will be providing flowers for children to give to their mothers.  It’s a day when we remember those who cared for us when we were children and pray for those who, for whatever reason, are not able to have children.  And so, through the songs of the prophet Miriam and Mary, Mother of the Lord, this morning we will explore our response to God’s calling in our lives.  And so…


Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
be with you.

                                               and also with you.



Blessed are you, Sovereign God, gentle and merciful:

                                                to you be glory and praise for ever!

                                                In the beginning your Spirit hovered over the face of the waters

                                                and now renews the face of the earth.

                                                When we turned to darkness and chaos,

                                                like a mother you would not forsake us.

                                                You cried out like a woman in labour

                                                and rejoiced to bring forth a new people.

                                                In Christ you delivered us from darkness

                                                to the gentle rule of your love.

                                                Blessed be God for ever!


            Hymn                          Sing we of Blessed Mother – Tune: Abbot’s Leigh (NEH)




We have done what was wrong in the Lord’s sight
and chosen what displeased him.
Yet as a mother comforts her child,
so shall the Lord himself comfort us.
So let us come to him who knows our every deed and thought.


We have done what was wrong in your sight
and chosen what has displeased you.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

As a mother comforts her child so shall you comfort us.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Let us return to you, for you know our every deed and thought.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.


May the Father of all mercies
cleanse us from our sins,
and restore us in his image
to the praise and glory of his name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The Word of God

Introduction                           The first reading is from chapter 15 of the Book of Exodus.  It describes the downfall of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea as they chase the Israelites escaping from captivity.


            First Reading             Exodus 15.19-22

When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.


Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.   And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’


For the gift of his holy word

thanks be to God.


            Anthem                      I will sing unto the Lord (John Amner)                                                       2.30”


Introduction               John Amner’s anthem ‘I will sing unto the Lord’, echoing the words of Miriam’s song which we heard in our first reading.

In the second reading – from the first chapter of Luke’s gospel – we hear Mary’s song of joy, acknowledging the news that she is expecting a child – the Son of God – and the implications for her and the world of this calling.


            Second Reading        Luke 1.46-55


Mary sang:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’


For the gift of his holy word

thanks be to God.


            Hymn                          For Mary, Mother of the Lord (NEH 161) – Tune: St Botolph (NEH 385)





One of the loveliest of relationships is that between a baby and its mother as they sing to each other. The mother may think she is leading the song, but such is the complexity of their relationship that she is often following the lead given by her child. Singing creates profound connection.


York Minster is a place where there is much singing.  This morning we are blessed by the music of The 24.  And on a daily basis during term time, this is also a place where young people, the girls and the boys of our Minster Choir, learn to sing really well, and as a group, they triumph. They sing as a group, they play and work and catch flu as a group, and – like so many choirs, young and old, sacred and secular - together they achieve much more than they could on their own. The England Cricketer Alastair Cook, a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, has reflected on the experience as instilling in him the discipline he needed the excel at sport. He said: “They were probably the hardest five years you could ever expect an eight-to 13-year-old to go through. It teaches you to be independent. It was hard work, 24 hours a week singing, eight to nine in the morning at choir practice, then school, then four to six for a service and more practice. The concentration was the best thing about it. You couldn’t make a mistake. There were times I wished I wasn’t doing it but my batting has probably got a lot of what went into the choir.”


Singing is a complex task. When you sing you are using about five or six or seven parts of brain in parallel. It’s incredibly good for it because it makes it do all these tasks simultaneously. Part is working on pitch, another on timbre, rhythm another, remembering the words, or the pattern of the tune another. The instructions to your muscles to perform the singing sound, or to your ears to monitor the returning sound all come from different parts of your brain. It’s amazing what your brain is doing even at 4 years old, singing a lullaby with your mother.


So it is not surprising that singing can send shivers down the spine. It is the product of great human skill and dedication. But it is more than that.  Just as singing can connect us together – both individually or as a community - singing in the context of faith helps to connect us to God.  Augustine of Hippo is misreported as saying. ‘He who sings, prays twice’. A contemporary did write ‘He who sings well prays twice’. But what Augustine wrote[1] was Those who sing praise, not only praise, but also praise joyously; those who sing praise, are not only singing, but also loving the one about whom they are singing. Or, more simply, singing is done by those who love. And so clergy and congregation listen to the song of lovers of God.

Now all that could verge on the sentimental.

But each Evensong the choir here sings a setting of one of the most subversive of texts, the Magnificat which we heard in our second reading and a form of which we sang as our opening hymn ‘Tell out, my soul’ this morning.  It’s one of the great songs of the Bible, a text which gives voice to the hope of a whole people, but which began as the song of triumph of a young woman.

Mary’s faith community left little space for women in public life, except when there was a need to express the deepest emotions: at times of tragedy, the men would send for the wailing women to articulate the terrible pain of the people in song. So we hear in the prophet Jeremiah how...


A voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children. She refused to be consoled for they were no more.


But just occasionally the women took the space for themselves and sang, not of tragedy but of triumph.


So it was when, as we heard in our first reading, Miriam celebrated the escape of her people from Egypt and, out in the wilderness, sang a great song of liberation: a song which was later attributed to her brother Moses, with just a fragment - ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ - left in the book of Exodus to remind us of her power. And much later, her namesake Mary, the Mother of the Lord, would sing of the liberation not just of her people but all people.


And she too sang in the wilderness: the message of the angel seems to have impelled her to leave the familiarity of her home to find the companionship of her cousin Elizabeth, who had also discovered she was pregnant and in her company sang the Magnificat - the song we know so well.


Why did Mary rush to be with her kinswoman Elizabeth? We don’t know for sure, but we can surmise. For both of these women have been pushed out to the margins and into the hands of the gossips by events. Mary, not yet married but knowing she is pregnant, fearful perhaps, isolated certainly, cannot bear to be alone. And miraculously there is another woman for her to be with. So she sets out for the hill country and enters the house of Zechariah and greets Elizabeth and these two marginalised, potentially vulnerable women, one husbandless, one with a husband apparently past usefulness, both not exactly like anyone else, fall into each other’s arms and in their connectedness they find new possibility and hope for the future.


Sarah Maitland’s meditation on the stories of Mary and Elizabeth in her novel Daughter of Jerusalem[2] puts the encounter like this:

Elizabeth feels her baby drumming, drumming inside her, like a butterfly in a tantrum, and she knows he is real, not an evil growth of mind or gut, but her child. And in the arms of her friend, her sister, within the strength of another women, Mary conceives again: the flowering of the great song of praise and power and triumph….the mighty are cast down, the humble exalted. The hungry are filled the proud smashed and the slaves freed. and , the children in their wombs are pressed close to each other and whisper that the triumph of their mothers is not complete, that there is more to come, and most of it will be bad. But the women hold one another, empowered by one another they declare for the new order, together they will feel and sing and love towards the new Jerusalem.


Together, out in the wilderness of the hill country, they express with great courage, God’s new, and deeply unsettling way.


Through the ages singing has bound people together in the face of difficulty or deep distress, and given not just solidarity but hope in the promises of God. From the slave women in the 18th century to the singing revolution of Estonia in the 20th century, to the African Mothers’ Union members exiled to the UK in our own times, songs have created connectedness which subverts despair and have articulated sorrow, and hope, and the promise of God’s new work and kingdom.

            Anthem                      Ave virgo gloriosa (Richard Dering)                                                           2.50”



Back announcement             Ave virgo gloriosa by the early 17th century composer Richard Dering which, like the motet by Cecilia MacDowall we shall hear in a moment, honours Mary, “the star brighter than the sun”.


                                                And so to our prayers…



Let us proclaim the greatness of the Lord
and rejoice together in the God who saves us.
Lord, you do great things for us:
holy is your name.

You have mercy on those who fear you in every generation.
We pray for your Church …
Lord, you do great things for us:
holy is your name.

You show the strength of your arm
and cast down the mighty from their thrones.
We pray for the nations of the world and their leaders …
Lord, you do great things for us:
holy is your name.

You lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things.
We pray for all those in any kind of need.

And, in particular this morning, for …
Lord, you do great things for us:
holy is your name.

You come to the aid of your servants
and remember your promises with mercy.
We remember …  and all who have died in the faith of Christ.
Bring us with them to share the joy of heaven
with Mary and all the saints.
Lord, you do great things for us:
holy is your name.

The choir sings

                            Regina Caeli (Cecilia MacDowall)                                                    2.20”
Father most holy,
so guide us in the way of humility and obedience like Mary,
that our lives may be a constant hymn of praise
to you from whom all good things come.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The Lord’s Prayer      Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us

                                    let us pray in faith and trust


Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.





            Hymn                          Now thank we all our God – Tune: Nun danket (NEH 413)



God of love,
passionate and strong,
tender and careful:
watch over us and hold us
all the days of our life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Christ the Son of God, born of Mary,
fill you with his grace to trust his promises and obey his will;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.


            Organ voluntary       



Radio 4 Closing Anno         


Sunday Worship came live from York Minster.  The preacher was The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull and the service was led by The Reverend Canon Peter Moger.  The 24 were conducted by Graham Bier and the organist was Robert Sharpe.  The producer was Simon Vivian.


Next week, the Archbishop of Armagh is the preacher for our Sunday Worship which, on St Patrick’s Day, comes from Dungannon, County Tyrone.


And a link to resource materials from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland complementing the series can be downloaded from the Sunday Worship web pages.



[1] Corpus Christianorum Latinorum vol. 39

[2] Blond and Briggs 1978