This morning we went to Eucharist in St Alban's Cathedral. We've started doing this a lot recently actually. It's a very 'high church' service - lots of 'bells and smells' as Rob puts it - and I find this somehow comforting and reassuring. I like the inclusivity of the Church of England, and I like that there is a more modern Family Service on Sunday mornings there too, but I also relish the occasion of this Eucharist: sitting in the choir stalls, singing rousing traditional hymns, saying the prayers with all their 'Thees' and 'Thous', listening to the top-class Cathedral Choir, and breathing in the scent of incense. It lifts my spirit.
However, this morning I was jolted from my reverie by the words of the Collect: Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people... Yes, it's Stir Up Sunday, and I haven't even thought about making my Christmas Pudding! I managed to make it on the 'correct' day last year, but this year I haven't even thought about it. I'm going to make some effort for it though - I'm sure I have enough sultanas in the cupboard to put them in a bowl to soak in rum for a day or so. At least then I'll feel like I have made a start with the process, with the added bonus that the kitchen will soon be filled with the comforting scent of rum-soaked fruit!
If you are ever in the vicinity of St Albans I can recommend a visit to the Cathedral. As well as going to services, we have popped in on several occasions to see the place as tourists. This is the shrine of St Alban himself, the first English Christian Martyr, killed for his faith in 250 AD.
Earlier this year we did a 'Tower Tour' where we were able to explore the less-visited areas of the Cathedral - the triforia, the roof space above the fan-vaulting, the ringing chamber, the bell-chamber, and eventually the roof of the tower itself.
It's mind-boggling to think of this immense structure being built between 1077 and 1115. The tower was largely built from Roman bricks, pillaged from the Roman town of Verulamium that predates the city of today.
It always feels such a privilege to worship in such a historic and beautiful place. But whatever faith you have - or none - I think that a building such as this can inspire all kinds of spirituality, awe and wonder. And taking time out to do this can only be a positive thing.
This morning we were all prompted to deep thought by the words of today's Gradual Psalm, Psalm 93:
The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice. The floods lift up their waves.
How unintentionally apt that these words should be sung as much of the north-west of England suffers the worst floods in decades, taking the life of a local policeman as a road bridge collapsed into a swollen river. I can barely imagine how terrible it must be to have your home flooded (let alone lose a loved one in this way). I'm resolved not to moan about the weather here in the south-east ever again.