It was an absolute joy to be able to hold our residential music week at Rydal Hall, near Ambleside in the Lake District this year. Numbers were quite restricted – we had just 24, including those of us on the CMM team – and great care had been taken to make things as safe as possible for guests and hotel staff alike. We were in bubble-groups at mealtimes, and all the meetings took place in the large barn some way from the house, with all the guests sitting apart in their bubbles wearing face-masks, and the team spaced out from each other at the front (with vocalist Sharon surrounded by plastic screens).
We were incredibly blessed with the weather – beautifully sunny every day, which meant that we could sing outdoors at 5.00pm for an hour before dinner. Sharon had brought a battery-operated CD player, and we sang through Torn Curtain together. It also meant that going to and from the barn several times a day wasn’t a chore, which it would have been in pouring rain – or for people with mobility issues.
It was delightful having two small girls aged 4 and 2 in the party; they loved the worship and music-making and joined in enthusiastically with percussion and dancing. And the dogs added greatly to the week as well: we were amused that Roger and Mary’s Poppy-dog lay down on Labrador Wilson’s blanket and kept it warm until he arrived at the meeting!
For me, it was such a joy after so many months to be able to minister God’s love to people through music. I wondered whether I would remember the songs, and whether I would have the confidence to lead worship after such a long time, but everything came back, on keyboard and viola. It was a joy and privilege to play whilst people were soaking in God’s presence at the end of meetings, and to see them receiving healing and peace. And we were able to pray with a number of people at various times during the week.
During the after-coffee slot, we had practical music-making in the barn – socially-distanced, of course, and no wind or brass instruments – just lots of ukuleles, a guitar, violin, cello and percussion, with me on keyboard. As well as several of the Torn Curtain songs, Linda and Jonathan Chappell had brought chord sheets for the ukuleles with fun songs using just 3 or 4 chords.
Roger’s teaching for the week – which was excellent – was based upon the Lord’s Prayer. His pattern at music weeks is always to teach from the Bible, share personal things that ‘earth’ the teaching, and leave space for the Holy Spirit to minister to people at the end. Roger unpacked the three main themes in the first sentence of the prayer – Father, Name, Kingdom – and showed how the rest of the Lord’s Prayer flows naturally from these three.
I had the pleasure on the Monday evening of presenting ‘CMM’s Covid Creativity’, where I shared many of our lockdown lyric videos, zoom rehearsals, musical singalongs and collaborative projects. It was a very steep learning-curve for all of us at CMM, but has meant that with God’s help we have been able to continue bringing light and hope to our dear folk during this crisis. Other evenings included an ‘Any Questions’ evening where the team answered some knotty theological and other queries, and a ‘Heart & Soul’ radio programme with live interviews, which was very moving.