This Sunday our Handbell Choir is playing the prelude before the 10:30 service. This group of dedicated parishioners gathers every (and I mean every) Thursday at 12:30 to rehearse. They do not play every Sunday, and usually the pieces that they play are not terribly long, but they have become a vital part of the liturgical ministry of our congregation.
A prelude before the Sunday service isn't just background music, at least it's not supposed to be. It is an introduction of what is to come. Preludes point to and illuminate something that is to come, something we do not want to miss. One of the downsides (and I admit that there aren't many) to being clergy on Sunday morning is that I'm usually getting vested or making other last minute preparations for the service, and oftentimes I miss the prelude entirely. Sometimes, though, as i am putting on my Eucharistic vestments, the sacristy is otherwise empty, and all i hear is that piece of music drifting through the door leading into the sanctuary. I'm thankful for those moments, as they help me shift my thoughts and my intentions away from whatever else might have been occupying my attention and towards what is at hand - the celebration of the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord.
When the Handbell Choir provides the prelude, I cherish that time even more. You may have noticed that on those Sundays, the prelude actually begins at 10:30, not a few minutes prior. They do that specifically so all of us (even your sometimes tardy rector) can be present and settled and can turn our attention not just to the music they will play, but to that which it introduces, to that which is to come.
This Sunday the prelude is O Sacred Head Now Wounded, a lovely and traditional Holy Week composition. It points us not just to the mass that follows it but also towards Holy Week, towards Good Friday, towards the moment of our salvation and redemption.
I am so thankful for our music program here, for our Organist and choir, and for the other musicians who on occasion accompany them. This week I am especially grateful for our Handbells, for their faithful ministry, and for the gift of the prelude they will offer.