A record number of people attended the Richborough Family Festival which took place at The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban on Saturday the 10th of August. For many years the Cathedral hosted a monthly Eucharist ‘Attended by members of Forward in Faith’ in the Lady Chapel and the Richborough Festival grew out of that, with a Sung Mass in the Lady Chapel followed by a picnic lunch in the Bishop’s garden at Parkside House. For the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016 the service was moved into the cathedral nave due to the larger numbers expected, and the following year saw the Lady Chapel overflowing with the result that the service moved back into the nave for 2018 and 2019. This year several-hundred people attended, with many parishes organising coaches from as far afield as Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Walsingham.
The observance this year was St Lawrence, which as Bishop Norman reminded us in his homily, is sometimes spelt as Laurence in the Church of England. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of Christians that the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered in 258. The actual details of his martyrdom are thin; his examiners are said to have insisted he produce the Church treasures, for which he was responsible. He promptly did so: assembling all the poor, he is reputed to have said, “These are the treasures of the Church.” The story of his being put to death on a gridiron is a much later addition to his story, though he is invariably depicted holding such, as is customary for martyrs to hold the implement of their torture.
Following the Mass the majority of the congregation made the short walk to the Bishop’s garden to consume their picnics, accompanied by plentiful amounts of wine, tea and coffee. As has become the custom, a short Bible Study followed, delivered by Bishop Norman from the conveniently placed balcony, a vista not unlike St Peter’s in Rome (a fact not missed by the Bishop who began ‘Urbi et Orbi..’!). A short exposition of St Paul followed, though many of us had half an eye on the sky, the rain having only just held off.
With an hour or so to spare, many went off to sample all that St Albans had to offer in the way of shopping, before returning to the Cathedral for Choral Evensong at 4 p.m., superbly sung by the choir of St Luke’s, Chelsea, the Cathedral Choir being on their summer holiday.
With many of our churches spread far apart, festivals such as this provide an excellent opportunity for both clergy and people to come together and remind everyone of the importance of the Richborough Family.
Fr Benjamin Weitzmann