St. Paul’s holds World’s oldest choral festival – 9th May 2023

The 368th Clergy Support Trust Festival is taking place on 9 May 2023 at 5pm at St Paul’s Cathedral and is a unique event that is free to attend.

The Festival is renowned for bringing together choirs from different cathedrals across the UK. This year, singers from St Paul’s Cathedral will be joined by those from Leicester and Llandaff. Neither cathedral choir has appeared at the Festival for over thirty years.

Andrew Carwood MBE, Director of Music at St Paul’s, never grows tired of the Festival experience.

“It is a rare and wonderful joy to be able to work with such incredible choirs each year, and even more so when you are part of an almost unbroken line of choirs singing together under the dome of St Paul’s stretching back over nearly 370 years.”

The service, which first took place in 1655, is organised by Clergy Support Trust, the largest charity dedicated expressly to helping clergy and their families. In 2022, the Trust supported almost one in five of all Church of England ministers.

The colourful and vibrant Festival Service – taking place three days after the Coronation of King Charles III – starts with a stunning procession of the choirs, cathedral clergy, Masters of City Livery Companies and Stewards of the Festival down the majestic central aisle of St Paul’s. The music promises to be exceptional in line with its historic choral legacy which has seen celebrated English composers like Parry and Elgar receive commissions to write new anthems for it. Each choir performs individually, before all three choirs combine in a joyous anthem, always the highlight of the evening.

Past preachers have included Rowan Williams, Justin Welby and John Sentamu. This year the sermon will be given by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, who made history when she became the first female diocesan Bishop in England, and the first female Bishop in the House of Lords.

The Reverend Ben Cahill-Nicholls, CEO of Clergy Support Trust, said:

“Ministry is an enormous blessing and a humbling privilege, but it can also be hard. The role of Clergy Support Trust is to serve those who spend their lives serving others. In 2022 the Trust supported more than 2,300 clergy households in a variety of ways ranging from financial help, counselling, and health grants, to providing nearly 1,300 clergy households with a much-needed post-pandemic break to recharge their batteries.”

Bishop Rachel praised the Trust’s crucial role:

“Clergy Support Trust provides an amazing lifeline and offers support in a way which emphasises the value and appreciation of clergy and ensures there is no stigma attached to seeking assistance. An especially moving part of the Festival is hearing the testimonies of recipients of such grants.”

Ben concluded,

“The Festival is an extraordinary event, but it’s also a moment to reflect on the equally extraordinary ministry of so many people. This is our way of saying, ‘Thank you.’”

To book tickets for the Festival and find more information, please visit the website.

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