Here is an abridged version of a talk given by Noel Preston (1922-2017) on May 1st 2011. Noel was a dearly loved member of our Church. Noel was responding here to the invitation to give a short, personal, talk on Easter.
I first became aware of the meaning of Easter as a young teenager, in this Church. It was here that I was confirmed, and first learnt to receive the broken bread. I became an altar server, I carried the processional cross, and sometimes I rang the church bell. Then the main bell was used only to summon the faithful to worship, now it also proclaims to the world the breaking of bread.
It was here that I had ready access to a magnificent organ, and the good fortunate of having a well qualified teacher – the church organist at the time was a Doctor of Music. So, here, I learnt the art of leading the singing of hymns from the organ.
In those days, Easter began, not with the magnificent liturgy of the Easter Vigil, but with the quiet early morning communion services, enlivened with a couple of hymns to mark the festival – enough for a budding organist to gain experience.
It was church music that brought Valerie and me together, and we were married in front of this altar – receiving the broken bread together. Shortly after our wedding, we were led by the Spirit to spend the next 40 years with the University Chaplaincy. Then, in a miraculous series of events a few years ago, the Spirit led us back here to our Anglican roots. Here we now have glimpses of the beauty and splendour of Anglican worship at its best, especially at Eastertide. At the same time, this is an inclusive church, where all are welcome, regardless of the precise manner in which their faith is expressed.
During my years as organist at the University Chaplaincy my weekday job was a medical scientist. There, I realised only too well that, when a scientist makes a new discovery, this is treated with doubt and scepticism by the scientific community. Only when others have repeated the experiments, and reached the same conclusions, is the discovery accepted as ‘scientific truth.’
Likewise with the resurrection of Jesus. Initial reports of the empty tomb, and encounters with the risen Lord, were doubted by the likes of Thomas until they experienced the risen Christ themselves. And so, with the evidence of various men and women, and groups of individuals, the early Church community came to accept the ‘truth’ of the resurrection. And down the ages, people have continued to encounter the risen Christ and to receive the gifts of the Spirit.
Noel finished his talk by reading the account of the appearance of Christ at Emmaus, in the Authorized Version of the Bible. He finished his talk with the words from the Gospel ‘he was known of them in breaking of bread.”