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St Bride's had not been filled to capacity since the Queen and Prince Philip attended the 50th anniversary service in 2007 to mark the rededication of the restored and rebuilt church after it had been badly damaged in World War II. At the end of July a packed congregation, on a sweltering high English summer's day, came to say farewell to their Rector, The Venerable David Meara, and his wife Rosemary.
The Mearas, like the rest of us, will surely store this day in their memories, not least because of the music and hymns, with the renowned St Bride's Choir raising their voices, no doubt with grateful thanks to have served with a Rector who has always believed that music enhances worship.
There were two charismatic items from the great Mozart. Firstly, we heard his Laudate Dominum, the words taken from the shortest psalm, 117, which carries the immortal words the truth of the Lord endures for ever. And then came Ave verum corpus, famously used for the Feast of Corpus Christi, the melody and words of which never fail to impress.
We sang a mixture of hymns, which included Amazing Grace (said to be sung at least 10 million times a year throughout the world) written by John Newton (1725-1807) when he was a curate at Olney, Buckinghamshire, a small town very familiar to the Mearas when David served at nearby Buckingham, and Ye Holy Angels Bright. And there were two baptisms - Digby Charles Sheldrake Catton and Huxley Gawain Watt.
I was particularly impressed with David's choice of poem, which he skilfully linked to his sermon. Robert Frost (1874-1963) was a truly great and remarkable American poet, known particularly for his everyday descriptions of rural life. His The Road Not Taken, has a thought-provoking spirit of adventure narrative which illustrates a story not too unfamiliar to that chosen by David Meara as one of God's messengers.
David and Rosemary, we're so sad that you're going,
But content you'll depart us happily knowing
That you leave at St Bride's friends both old and new
Who treasure the fact that they've known both of you.
From your Ministry, David, of the last fourteen years
(some memorable moments and very few tears!)
To Rosemary's support, quietly given, it's true,
But undoubtedly there in all you both do.
We trust that in Kidlington you'll find peace and quiet.
(Oxfordshire, we're told, is not prone to a riot!)
The long list of names are those who wished to subscribe
To something you'll select to remember St Bride.
Good Health and Good Fortune in the years yet to come
And may all of God's blessings shine down like the sun,
For although here in Fleet Street it's the end of an era
St Bride's will long echo to the Good Name of Meara!
It was fitting that the farewell service was combined with Choral Eucharist and concluded with drinks, short speeches and presentations from the congregation and the shop committee, and a poetic farewell ditty from the senior churchwarden Peter Silver marking the closing of another chapter in this great church. In a couple of months, another chapter will begin with the arrival of a new incumbent, Rev'd Canon Dr Alison Joyce.
St Bride's says farewell, then, and thanks to David and Rosemary as they began a new personal chapter somewhere in the leafy Oxfordshire countryside. Amen to that!