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Silence among the sounds

Marking the Edinburgh Festival from Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, Edinburgh, with the Rev Scott McKenna. Edinburgh Singers directed by Alistair Digges. Organist: Kate Pearson

Marking the Edinburgh Festival from Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, Edinburgh, with
The Rev Dr Scott McKenna and Edinburgh's former Makar, Christine de Luca.
The Edinburgh Singers directed by Alistair Digges. Organist: Kate Pearson
Introit: Fanfare (Martin Shaw)
Sing to God new songs of worship (Tune: Ode to Joy)
Readings: 2 Chronicles 5; Mark 1: 32-39
Salutation (Esenvalds)
Holy wisdom, lamp of learning (Tune: In Babilone)
The Singing Heart (Chilcott)
Almighty Father of all things that be (Tune: Chilton Foliat)
Producer: Mo McCullough

9 days left to listen

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 25 Aug 2019 08:10



REV SCOTT McKENNA  - Introduction
Good morning and welcome to Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, here in Edinburgh.   Famous for its part in the Scottish Reformation and Enlightenment, today our city is marked by its international reputation in science and the arts.   From the south side of Edinburgh, our Service is one of thanksgiving for the International Festival:  for the imagination of the artists, talent and dedication of the performers, generosity of the sponsors and everyone who in any way helped to make this year’s festival an incredible and inspirational success.   In every form of art, silence has a significant if uncelebrated part to play.   Silences are the holy ground of human life.  In the Christian tradition and elsewhere, the Eternal Silence, the mystery of God, is at the centre of all things.

CHRISTINE DE LUCA - Call to worship
As we prepare our path towards that still centre and that mystery, let’s raise our voices in praise.

To Beethoven’s tune Ode to Joy, ‘Sing to God new songs of worship’.


HYMN - SING TO GOD NEW SONGS OF WORSHIP   (CH4 173 – Tune, Ode to Joy)

SCOTT – Call to Prayer and Prayer
In this sacred space,

shaped by stone and ritual, memory and imagination,

we still ourselves that

our hearts may pulse and beat

in praise of creation’s Great Artist.


Let us pray.

Mystery beyond mysteries,

ineffable, elusive,

luminous darkness hidden beyond our definitions,

in whose Consciousness

the dance, music and song of the cosmos

are conceived and performed.
we open ourselves to You.

Paradox of absence and presence,

along the pathways of the soul’s labyrinth,

we seek the Silence beyond silences.


Into the stillness of the Holy One,

we bring our brokenness,

personal and societal;

every discord and hurt,

all that shames, excludes and diminishes.


Tender Mother, forgiving Father,

may we feel the oil of Your healing on our foreheads,

hear Christ’s words of rebuke and welcome ring in our ears, and

know in our hearts that there is nothing Your depthless love cannot face.

In Your embrace, we are held for eternity.


Strengthen us, O God,

in the knowledge that You put Your shoulder to our burdens,

that the essence of the religious life is reflective meditation,

virtue, compassion and, above all, a symphony of love:

love for the earth, love of others, and love of self.



CHRISTINE – First reading:  2 Chronicles 5: 1 - 2, 7 - 8, 11 - 14

The first lesson is from the second book of Chronicles, Chapter 5.

Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. Solomon brought in the things that his father David had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.

2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion
7Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 8For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles

11 Now when the priests came out of the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to their divisions), 12all the levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kindred, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with one hundred and twenty priests who were trumpeters, 13it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,
‘For he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever’,
the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

SCOTT - Introduction to Motet:

That image of the unifying power of song in praise is echoed now in a motet by Bob Chilcott, which celebrates voices and hearts brought together as one: The Singing Heart.

This will be followed by our Gospel lesson from St Mark Chapter 1, read by Louise Thomson of the Edinburgh International Festival.




LOUISE – Second reading:  Mark 1: 32-3932
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

We sing the hymn,
‘Holy wisdom, lamp of learning, bless the light that reason lends.
Teach us judgement as we kindle sparks of thought your Spirit sends.’

HYMN – HOLY WISDOM, LAMP OF LEARNING  (CH4 604 – Tune, In Babilone)


SCOTT  - Sermon

A celebration of music, theatre, dance and art, audiences at the Edinburgh International Festival have been blessed by a diverse range of performers from around the world.   Described as ‘visionary, versatile and thrillingly vibrant’, the LA Phil opened the Festival at Tyncastle Park with music from Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and E.T.   Last night Edinburgh’s prestigious Usher Hall was hallowed by an exquisite performance of Benjamin Britten’s soul-searching masterpiece, War Requiem.    Soloists of voice and instrument, chorus singers and orchestral ensembles, story-tellers and actors have through talent and dedication sought to enrich and transport the lives of their audiences.  

Ludwig van Beethoven said that, ‘Music is the mediator between the spiritual life and the sensual life’.   The reformer Martin Luther believed music to be ‘the most magnificent and delightful present God has given us’ and, a century ago, Edward Elgar creatively used music as therapy; a source of healing in mental and physical well-being.    Beauty takes many forms; it is an antidote to life’s hardships and ugliness.    For a passing moment, it lifts us out of mediocrity and the mundane.   Through the majestic beauty of melodic sound or graceful art, we taste the ethereal, the transcendent.  


In the Tanakh, the Old Testament, in the lesson of Second Chronicles, we read of the drama of liturgical ritual and pilgrimage in the dedication of Solomon’s temple.   With fine linens on display and the harmonious notes of cymbals, harps, lyres and trumpeters sounding in praise and thanksgiving, the Ark of the Covenant, the box containing the tablets of stone from Sinai, was borne into the inner sanctuary of the temple, into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place on earth.   In the imaginative language of mythology, we are told that the wooden Ark was hidden under the wings of the cherubim; the angelic guardians hovered above God’s covenantal box.   Finally, the temple, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, with the glory of God.  


The cloud is not incense or fumes from the burning of sacrifices; not visible to the human eye, it is the mystical manifestation of the Shekinah, the Presence of the Eternal.   Like twenty-first century festival goers, the worshippers of 1000BC, of the Late Bronze period, were captured by beauty; by beauty’s transcendence.   Aaron Copland asked, ‘Is there a meaning to music?’   He said, “My answer to that would be ‘Yes’.   And, ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’   My answer to that would be, ‘No’.”

Perhaps the most precious moment of any stage performance is the fleeting emptiness, that moment of sacred silence which ever so briefly follows the final note, the last word.   That elusive, intangible fraction of time, a seeming emptiness, is replete with meaning; that tenderest silence bears each note that has been played.   At the centre of the Jerusalem festal pageant, in the very heart of the stone temple, the barest room housed the Ark.   An enclosure marked by darkness and stillness, the Eternal, the Mystery we call ‘God’, inhabited the emptiness.   In the mind’s eye, through the power of imagination, take yourself into that room:  let the silence of the Sacred soak into your soul.   The mystics say that there is no eloquence greater than the silence of God.   At its best, religion is a stripping away, a stepping beyond doctrinal definitions; it is the embracing of uncertainty.   God is the ineffable, unknowable yet intimate life force that compels us to search for our completion, wholeness and fulfilment.   The Sufi poet, Rumi, said, ‘The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear’.   ‘Our greatest need’, said St John of the Cross, ‘is to be silent before this great God….for the only language God hears is the silent language of love’.   We are to sit in God’s company as lovers.


For many people, silence can be frightening and distressing because it allows painful memories to surface.   With patience, self-forgiveness and the grace of God, we can journey beyond that, mature spiritually into a reservoir of silence; a restorative, even ecstatic place of uncomplicated meditation and healing.   At its best, silence is communion.   We can become tired of praying in words; tired of returning to God with words that no longer have life in them for us.   Our words can become barriers:  they confine us when what we need is spiritual nourishment and new insights.   Whether it is sitting quietly in a peaceful room or on an undisturbed stroll along a sandy beach, we can be and let God be, allowing ourselves to be present to the Presence.


Full of poetic imagery, potent and suggestive, the Gospel of Mark records the story of Jesus early one morning, while it was still very dark, journeying to a deserted place:  there He prayed.   Inaudible, Jesus listened to the music of the Universe.   Read as a spiritual text, a text of the heart, of inwardness, we learn that Jesus is to be encountered in the darkness, in the desert moments of our lives.   We are invited to sit with Jesus in His solitude.   The mention of the morning in the story suggests resurrection, new life and new birth.   The most important journey we make in life is the inner journey.   St Augustine said, ‘Come back to your heart.   In your inner self Christ has made His home.   In your inner self you will be renewed in God’s image’.   In the performance of our lives, it is often the silences which have most meaning.



Some words of Rabindranath Tagore weave ideas of connection with nature, song and silence to express his desire to be at one with his God. 


The poem was set to music by Ēriks Ešenvalds and will be sung by the Edinburgh Singers.


[Christine reads:]

In one salutation to thee, my God,

Let all my senses spread out

and touch this world at thy feet.


Like a raincloud of July hung low

with its burden of unshed showers,

let all my mind bend down at thy door

in one salutation to thee.


Let all my songs gather together

Their diverse strains into a single current

And flow to a sea of silence

In one salutation to thee.


Like a flock of homesick cranes

Flying night and day back to their mountain nests,

Let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home

in one salutation to thee.


CHOIR:  SALUTATION (Ēriks Ešenvalds)


Prayers of Thanksgiving, Intercession & Commemoration of the Faithful Departed  



Let us pray.

Holy God,

in ways diverse and rich we feel ourselves to be truly blessed.

Creation’s beauty is a sacrament:

                through the sky’s shifting clouds, the majesty of mountains,

                the rhythmic sound of waves flowing and ebbing,

                we see the unseeable God;

                in harvest moon and vermillion sunset,

                and nature’s fecundity of flower and bird,

we thank You for the blessing of fruitful beauty.


We thank You for the gifts, dedication and hard work

                of artist and performer,

for all whose expertise and generosity enable the creative energy of the arts

                to flow and nourish this city and its welcome visitors.


CHOIR: SUNG RESPONSE  CH4 27 – PSALM 34 (Taladh Chriosta) Verse 1



We celebrate and pray for the witness

of Your church throughout the world,

                in all its colour, diversity and difference.

May the Body of Christ reflect the self-forgetfulness of Jesus;

                may it be a place of contemplation and compassion.


God of the soul,

we bring to You

the suffering of the world.

We are mindful of those broken by life events:

by hardships, injury, unkindness or abuse.

                We pray for all who work in caring professions:

for the services which seek to sooth and heal

the sicknesses of body, mind or spirit.


 CHOIR - SUNG RESPONSE   CH4 27 – PSALM 34 (Taladh Chriosta) Verse 2



Eternal God,

dwelling deep within us,

bless our country,

our Queen,

political leaders at Westminster and Holyrood;

guide all who shape our common life.


May we play our part in helping to build

                a future, a society, in which the stranger is welcomed,

                the vulnerable are valued and protected,

human rights are honoured, and

creation itself nurtured.

May we commit ourselves to overcome violence against neighbour,

cruelty to animals and careless destruction of the planet.


CHOIR - SUNG RESPONSE CH4 27 – PSALM 34 (Taladh Chriosta) Verse 3



We remember the bereaved,

those who are dying,

those suffering in body, spirit or mind.

In reflective silence,

we call to mind those whom we love,

we remember their smiles, the joy they have brought us.


We give thanks for people of peace,

co-pilgrims of all faiths,

spiritual leaders across myriad cultures,

for all who worship in temple, mosque, synagogue and church,

for all who make that journey inwardly.  



These prayers we offer in Jesus’ Name, and in His words

we would sum up all our prayers, saying together…..


ALLOur Father

which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts

as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

HYMN – ALMIGHTY FATHER OF ALL THINGS THAT BE    (CH4 497 – Tune, Chilton Foliat)


SCOTT - Benediction

The blessing of God almighty

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Be with you and remain with you always.


SUNG AMEN (Dresden)



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