The Minster Church of St Michael











News & Views

       This page could evolve to include "Extracts from Parish magazine" , with the permission and co-operation of that journal's editorial team.  Certainly I had hoped to see it develop into a facility which offers an insight in to the Day to Day life of the Minster and its organisations, as well as reflecting our life outside the strict confines of the church itself.  Contributions from ALL organisations (Choir, Mothers' Union etc which have a link, however tenuous, to the Minster will be welcomed, ACCEPTED & PUBLISHED so you won't be wasting your time in sending them!)


Apparently,  the format of the 2007 services is to be followed in 2008, and this church will thus NOT have a Choral Eucharist, or other traditional/modern Anglican service to offer "parishioners" and intending visitors on the evening of Maunday Thursday Instead, the Minster is staging a Seder Meal, in church, before moving on to celebrate Eucharist, in some form or other.

Admittedly, the Seder Meal was the formal Meal celebrating the Passover celebrated by folk at family gatherings - at home, not at the Synagogue. 'Re-enacting' this can help children and others understand the full meaning of the sacrifice in Jewish terms. However, even the Christian version of this meal, set to serve this educational purpose, is designed to take place in the family home - not before the Christian altar and I feel it should not disrupt or replace the services that most Christians of the Anglican tradition should expect to find. For a resume of the ritual, read on - details can be found under SEDER MENU  on the web

     "It is still uncertain when Christians first began to make an annual (as opposed to the, modern, weekly) memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ. This Pascha (a word derived indirectly from pesach, Hebrew `Passover') was at first a night-long vigil, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist at cock-crow, and all the great themes of redemption were included within it: incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, glorification. Over time, the Pascha developed into the articulated structure of Holy Week and Easter. Through participation in the whole sequence of services, the Christian shares in Christ's own journey, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the empty tomb on Easter morning.

This solemn season preserves some of the oldest texts still in current use, and re­hearses the deepest and most fundamental Christian memories. The procession with Palms, which was already observed in Jerusalem in the fourth century, is accompanied by the reading of the Passion Narrative, in which the whole story of the week is antici­pated. Maundy Thursday (from man datum, `commandme

nt,' cf. John 13.34) contains a rich complex of themes: the Passover meal carries on the tradition established by God through Moses when he commanded his people to commemorate his loving kindness towards them in the Exodus.

The lesson of God's freeing the Israelites from slavery was to be taught with an open­ness of heart surrounded by loved ones, family and friends. For centuries people have been following traditional Seder services. The small book which gives the text for this order of service (Seder) is called Haggadah, which means "the telling" as prescribed in Exodus 13:8. From the Jewish order of ancient ceremonial events, and the story of sal­vation from the exodus onwards, we follow a running commentary of prayers and scripture readings as people of God celebrating our Judeo-Christian heritage. The meal, symbols and actions are designed to help us thank God for his goodness to us through­out salvation history, and remember the cost. For Christians the Passover finds fulfilment in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and we end our Seder with a celebration of the Eucharist, as instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. The night ends with the traditional stripping of the altar, identifying with Christ's loving obedience through the agony of Gethsemane."           ALL WELL AND GOOD FOR FOLK WHO LIKE "ROLE PLAYING" BUT HARDLY AN ANGLICAN FORMAT. LITTLE WONDER THAT I KNOW OF SOME FOLK WHO WILL BE AT ST. IGNATIUS, HENDON, (STILL AN ANGLICAN PARISH CHURCH - ALBEIT EXTREMELY 'HIGH' - INSTEAD !!


I went to the Minster at 7pm to read the old services, which I would have so enjoyed to share with my fellow "parishioners, but, of course, I was on my own in this regard. However, all went well until  the dinner party on the dais started to relay their service  - to whom I was not sure as I was the only one in the Nave. I thus had to end my devotions half way through the Communion service, having at least read the Evening Prayer and some appropriate collects and psalms.



....We congregated, as usual, at Tunstall Farm for the procession to Tunstall Hill, where we joined in with the simple, brief, but extremely moving ecumenical service, led this year by Canon Alec Barrass of St Mary's. Our thanks to him for a service conducted with wonderful depth and gravitas which at last made the season meaningful to me !


We had a very  moving beginning to this glorious day, because we started off at 5:30 am, congregating outside the church where a fire had been set and ignited. From this fire, the Easter Candle was lit and we moved into the church for the service. This was a very atmospheric setting and my only regret was that I was not able to take a full fart in the service itself, but stayed on the periphery. I was, however able to take much comfort in being able to witness the joy of the full participants, and this also enhanced my own tremendous feeling of anticipation for the 8:00 Holy Communion service held mainly in compliance with the Book of Common Prayer -- the celebrant not being "SDH", the BCP readings were omitted in favour of  those from Common Worship.      It would be good to have the 5:30 service next year (if it is to take place) with the Book of Common Prayer settings, then all Anglicans could take part, whatever their preferences - but perhaps no photographers once the service has started, albeit outside ?

Unfortunately, the services went rapidly downhill through the day from this point , ending with what should have been a glorious Evensong -- unfortunately, there was apparently no 'vicar' available to take this most important service -- what was once, and should still have been, one of the two the highlights of the traditional Anglican year. Fancy spoiling it like this !!

...  and I cannot leave this subject without congratulating (and thanking) the folk of St Gabriel's Church who constructed the Easter Garden (left) outside their church this year. This follows on from their efforts at Christmas when they set up a simple Nativity scene in their South porch.

Their enterprise in tackling both ventures should yield them a rich harvest, because in their different ways, both scenes must surely have struck a chord with a number os passers-by, whether believers or non-believers, and demonstrated that their is an active faith being lived on here, on their doorstep.






And now, my own thoughts about the lack of modern-day usage of well-loved readings from the King James Bible. I believe that- among older folk at least- even those who rarely (if ever) go to church will still be more familiar with these well-loved Christmas texts from a Carol service  . Below, I place both the modern translation (left) which was used at the |Minster and the King James version (right) side by side. Please read through them and let me know which you prefer










































































I am sorry to seem to be in continual dispute with the folk who 'run' our church on a number of grounds: the article above deals with one of my preferences, but chiefly- and most importantly, is my concern  that there is a present-day failure to present our church (that is, to remind them, the Church of England) with rites and beliefs as encompassed in the Articles of Religion (see the Book of Common Prayer).

I feel that there is thus a failure to represent that Church of England properly, in the present quest to be "all things to all men", which usually ends up as 'nothing to anyone' (or stages in between). This can easily be resolved by closer reference to the Book of Common Prayer and attention to those services which stood the test of time for 300 years+ until the dawning of this "more enlightened" age.

And, thirdly, of course is the way in which the enlightened church offers its praise in presenting the glorious music that has been written, especially for the Anglican (and British) rite over the centuries. Should  the Minster, as the leading church in the ever-expanding city, not also be carrying this torch of excellence through this century and into the next - or do we merely wish to pander to the modern concept of being a church for the city, providing services (and OFFICIAL CEREMONIES), for folk who wish to exhibit their grandeur but feel no great loyalty/obedience to the tenets of the Anglican faith ? I do not like the idea of our church being just a place in which to hold grand ceremonies to such Civic parties

  Not that I wish to see all modern forms banned. Not at all -- a church serving the whole community should indeed be a broad church (always Anglican of course) and there should be room for all modes of Anglican service and music, but this should, surely include provision for the established, traditional services, including Mattins, as a part of the main services on at least one Sunday per month. The main churches in our capital city and elsewhere in the country can manage to achieve this, so why is Sunderland incapable of such !!?



I continue to regret that, despite it's official elevation in rank to that of, at least one of the leading churches in the city and area, we are not yet able to provide would-be worshippers with the choice of going to their preferred Anglican service. We have, at least, over the last few years had the facility to attend a Book of Common Prayer Communion at 8am each Sunday morning - I still don't like getting up so early at weekends - but at least that is better than the nothing we had for some years before that.     (why , incidentally, must they 'bill' to such an old C of E service it as Eucharist instead of Holy Communion?).

   Happily, over the last few years full Choral Evensong (BCP) , including full musical settings of the Canticles, has been re-introduced and this remains a true joy, especially now that our parsons have got nicely into the habit of chanting the Preces, etc.

There remains one element yet to be tackled however, and that is a Choral Mattins.   This wonderful service disappeared from our lists some years ago and I hope that this  will be remedied in the not-too-distant future.

I must say that as my wife and I travel through the leading towns of this country and see the main churches there offering the full range of services, (the most recent one was Old Church, Chelsea) I feel extremely envious.

It is therefore with sadness that I learn that Sunderland Minster may be contemplating doing away with one of its remaining jewels - Choral Evensong. Already the frequency of this service has been reduced from a weekly event to once or twice monthly, being replaced by a service entitled 'Evening Worship'.

   It is sadly the case that rarely does the church seek to cater for all tastes adequately: what appears to be outdated, old-fashioned or basically "past its sell-by date " is discarded. This is so with the BCP services: were it otherwise, a BCP Holy Communion (I still prefer this title) or even a Matins service would appear from time to time as the"Ten o'clock fixture". Who knows, people who do not know those services may find them a thought-provoking change  - worth a try?

Below, a couple of quotes worth considering which apply equally to the Mattins service, but there is also room for contemplation in the BCP Communion, once one has become familiar with those glorious prayers etc contained in it:- 


Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio :-

"Evensong, one of the official services of the Anglican Communion, has a centuries old tradition. The very controversial Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, is credited with publishing the first order of Evensong in 1549. It was revised and included as an official service in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Evensong is often referred to as a combination of two Roman Catholic offices, Vespers and Compline, blended into one inspiring service. There are two types of the service, one with a choir and one without. The services at Christ Church Cathedral include the choir.

In the choral service, sections of the liturgy are strategically set to music. For the most part, the music is traditional Anglican dating back to the sixteenth century. However, compositions by contemporary composers such as Herbert Howells and John Rutter are gaining standing in choral evensong services.

Proponents of choral evensong believe singing adds a valuable dimension to the spiritual experience of worship. As St. Augustine said, “Anyone who sings, prays twice.”

The tradition of choral evensong at Christ Church Cathedral is well established. The standard of singing is very high, as the Cathedral choir continues a worship service nearly 500 years old."


Cathedral Choral Evensong is essentially a service of reflection - of leaving oneself open that God may speak to us through the psalms and readings and canticles which are the core of the service.

We welcome you to share with us in worship that has been offered here for nearly a thousand years. Cathedrals with a great choral tradition draw upon a rich inheritance of music, much of it sung by the choir alone. In the Anglican tradition this music finds its natural setting in the ancient office of Evensong, a combination of the medieval offices of Vespers and Compline found in the Book of Common Prayer. Here beauty in language and music can speak to us of God in a rich and diverse way. Within this hallowed space you may forget the ceaseless activity of daily life and be still.

(The music is the traditional Anglican repertoire from the sixteenth century to the present day.
The service usually lasts about 45 minutes.)"


I cannot , as I write about Choral Evensong, this major part of Choir duties, help but reminisce on my early days in the choir which were happy and fulfilling times, in which I learned music that I had never heard in the Presbyterian Church,  where my father, grandfather and aunt were Elders for very many years. When I was first approached at school, auditioned and subsequently invited to join Bishopwearmouth Parish Church choir I was not sure what my parents' reaction would be but my father raised no objection. He did, however, stress that if I was taking on such duties I must realise that there were times when I would have to forego other pleasures as my commitment to the choir would have to come first. This I readily accepted, and never regretted it.

The great influence on my life, musically, was of course Clifford Hartley, the Church's Organist and Choirmaster - a giant of a man in all but physical stature !! He it is who gave me my great love of Church music, but not only that!! He also became the 'landlord' of Pat, my future wife, over 30 years ago, when he divided his house up into three flats, and then persuaded her to join his (Bishopwearmouth) Choral society - where I subsequently met her! So I have much more than the music to thank him for and he continues, though long dead, to play a great part in our lives.

  Please let me have your opinion, pro or con, to add to this debate.


Something which I feel is sadly lacking from the Minster grounds at Christmas  - and that is the representation of the Traditional  Nativity Scene,  which at least remains dear to the hearts of children of all ages (including centenarians ) .  I know such a tableau may not last long,  with the possibility of vandalism, but it's worth a try.

The Minster is to provide a site for the forthcoming (perhaps vaguely religious) 'SHINE', festival provided by the Events committee of Sunderland Council. Surely, if the Minster were not able to provide such a tableau, the 'SHINE' committee could have been prevailed upon to do so?

The 'SHINE' event will feature lights and musical notes, (provided by the Minster choir) -but, unfortunately, no recognisable Christian music!!  Hopefully, those noises  will be switched off during services, or it could impinge upon more traditional devotions! 

As I repeatedly say, if anyone wishes to comment on any matter  I am will  respond. and will , OF COURSE,  print any such replies, comments or suggestions, unless requested otherwise.

I believe that we should all communicate our views as strongly (and politely) as possible and that every such communication merits the courtesy of at least an acknowledgment. What do YOU think ?


Good Friday and Easter 2007

Friday, 6th April    Once again, we have completed our pilgrimage to the very moving ecumenical gathering at Tunstall Hill, following the cross and taking part in the readings, prayers and hymns. This year the service, again organized magnificently by St Cecilia's R.C Church, was led by Methodist minister, the Rev. Derek Aldridge. Words are not adequate to express the emotions, mainly sombre joy and wonder,  felt on such occasions, so I hope that the pictures below will convey something of the experience






finally,for 2007 ....... a parting shot from Tunstall Hill...



    This wonderful CHRISTIAN witness takes place in something of the same way that such walks have taken place in Sunderland for more than One hundred years. As a Presbyterian youngster, I took part in the marches and services which culminated in a moving service outside the Old Town Hall in Fawcett Street.


Easter Day  -------       HE IS RISEN INDEED.............





        "The Minster Bells" -  Bell Restoration Appeal 2006

(text extracted from the Friends of Sunderland Minster leaflet)

 The History of the Bells



The first peal of six bells was cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London in 1809 and was hung in an oak frame in the tower in 1810. The Tenor (heaviest) bell weighed 11 cwt approx. and rang the note G. 

The bells were hung for full circle ringing in the traditional English manner.

In 1894 the six bells were augmented to eight.

A peal of 5024 Kent Treble Bob Major was rung on Wednesday September 9th 1894 to mark the dedication of the two new treble bells.


The present bells were recast and re­hung by Mears & Stainbank in 1932 at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London.

After recasting, the Tenor bell weighed 12cwt. The 1894 frame was altered to allow the larger recast bells to be installed.

The present bells bear the following inscriptions.

Treble and Second bell  'THANKSGIVING AD 1894  John L. Browne 'CHURCHWARDEN' '




The restoration proposal is to re­place the existing frame, which has reached the end of its useful life, with a new steel 10 bell frame which would hold the existing eight bells and include two new Treble (lighter) bells as befitting a Minster. To clean and rehang the bells in the modern frame with metal headstocks and new wheels.

The anticipated cost of this is in the region of £50,000, and the Friends of Sunderland Minster are grateful to all our supporters and benefactors.

All donations should be sent to Sunderland Minster Cheques payable to 'Friends of Sunderland Minster' 


The Bells are hung for full circle ringing in the traditional English manner are rung by means of ropes and wheels.     

Each bell swings a full circle to and fro, the belt being struck once at the end of each swing, by the central clapper.

Bells hung in this manner require one person for each bell.


When the restoration project is complete the newly hung bells of Sunderland Minster will be heard over the whole of the City of Sunderland.

Sunderland Minster, High Street West SUNDERLAND SRI 3ET Tel: 0191 565 4066 Fax: 0191 567 1002


2nd November 2006 Excellent news (courtesy of the Sunderland Echo) !  It appears that the target figure has now almost been reached.  There remains only £5,000 yet to be raised and we are all extremely grateful to the parishioners, businesses and other interested parties who have made this possible. The Echo reports "that the bells" will now be heard again. In writing this, they did, of course, employ "journalistic licence"  because the bells were never in such serious danger of being silenced, although the main bell frame is cracked - said, at the start of the appeal to be very serious. However, we did need the alterations which will make a ten-bell peal possible. Work will start early in the new year.

        I feel particularly thankful, because it was explained to me that the Minster would not be able to seek the services of an assistant organist until the money for the refurbishment of the bells had been found. We can now look forward to steps being taken towards this additional goal of augmenting the choir and its staff, "as befitting a Minster".

February 2008     The bells are, happily, still being rung, but there has been no mention at the Minster for some considerable while as to when work will commence. Fortunately, the article in the Sunderland Echo in introducing the appeal was obviously far too pessimistic and there has been no need to close down the campanological activities  --- but for how long will this continue ??

arj Barton, with her page (granddaughter) after her installation as High Sheriff
The Installation of
arj Barton, with her page (granddaughter) after her installation as High Sheriff
Receiving congratulations from Rev. C Jackson

       Investiture/installation of High Sheriff of Tyne & Wear

I welcome the chance to talk about this very happy event. The ceremony (and a grand affair it was too) took place in the Minster at 6pm on Thursday 23rd March,2006. The new holder of this ancient, ceremonial role is Marj Barton (see pictures) and she accepted her installation with great dignity, helping to make this a magnificent occasion. A "3-line whip" had been issued to the choir, who responded loyally to the appeal and (hopefully) their rendition of Stanford's 'Jubilate' did not let the Minster down.      The ceremony was essentially a legal one - occasionally, previous sheriffs have opted for a purely civil ceremony. This one was led by our rector (pictured), who also stayed on hand to direct the visitors in to the restaurant for drinks and canapes.

Altogether, a very good evening!


       The Centenary of the Empire Theatre 1st July 2007

As I write this, I look forward, with some interest, to tonight's service which takes the place of our normal Choral Evensong, although, happily and thanks to our choirmaster, David Cox, the choir will still be singing the normal canticles, in full settings.

   The anthem will be recognisable to those folk in the congregation (the majority, I suspect) who do not normally hear church music. It is the setting of "The Lord is my Shepherd" made famous on the TV programme "The Vicar of Dibley".  Contrary to my first reaction, there is no truth in the rumour that the clergy will be dressed as The Teletubbies - to continue the theme!



































































Page updated by David Herring October 2006