Last weekend it was my privilege and pleasure to visit Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk for the annual conference and AGM of the Guild of Church Musicians, and particularly so as the Guild was making me one of several new honorary fellows (Hon. FGCM for short).
About 150 honorary fellowships have been awarded in the past 25 years or so, some to clergy (including Archbishop Desmond Tutu) but chiefly to lay people involved in various activities connected with church music.
Saturday included the opportunity to hear the magnificent organ and to be taken on a guided tour of the cathedral, and to attend a service that began with the presentations of various awards by the acting bishop, the Rt. Rev. David Thomson.
There was a chance to see the nearby Abbey Gardens – not yet at their most spectacular, but still very fine. Most of the cathedral was built as a parish church in the middle ages (it became a cathedral only in 1914, so it is celebrating its centenary this year). The tower was completed only about ten years ago, and has a marvellous painted ceiling in brilliant golds, greens, reds and blues.
The Guild of Church Musicians has a long and distinguished history, having been founded in 1888.
The website says that ‘The Guild exists to encourage all musicians within the church, whether amateur or professional, to foster the highest attainable standards of music in the worship of Almighty God. The membership is interdenominational, being open to all branches of the Christian Church. Until 1988 it was mainly Anglican, but in that Centenary Year the Archbishop of Canterbury invited the Archbishop of Westminster to become a joint patron’.