(Left to right): Caroline Mulcahy, Debbie Flood, Jeremy ‘Rass’ Randall, Bishop Mark Jabalé, Pete Reed, Anastasia Chitty, Paul Mainds
City of London
Wednesday 2 May 2018 at 5 pm
Click here to download a copy of the Order of Service.
One of the highlights of our bicentenary year, Choral Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral proved a memorable event for almost two hundred Leander members as well as members of the general public who attended.
As they took their seats the congregation enjoyed organ scholar James Orford play a selection from Handel’s Water Music as well as pieces by JS Bach and Percy Whitlock. The Choir and Ministers then processed into the Cathedral accompanied by the guest preacher, Leander member and Emeritus Bishop of Menevia, Mark Jabalé.
Lessons were read by the Leander President, Jeremy ‘Rass’ Randall, and by three-times Olympic champion Pete Reed, alternating with the Choir’s rendition of Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Brewer in D).
The Intercessions were led by double Olympic silver medallist Debbie Flood, and four-times winning Oxford Blue Anastasia Chitty, before the sermon by Mark Jabale. The full text of Mark’s sermon can be found below.
The service ended with an Act of Thanksgiving led by Caroline Mulcahy, Assistant Manager at Leander, and by Paul Mainds, chairman of the Leander Bicentenary Committee.
Following the National Anthem Leander members then repaired to the crypt where they were able to enjoy an informal supper together.
Left: The President and the Bishop compare footwear
Text of Bishop Mark’s Sermon
During this year of celebration for Leander’s two hundredth anniversary, surely today’s service in St Paul’s must rank as one of the most important events in the calendar.
But today is not a time for gloating or boasting, it is not a time for patting ourselves on the back or looking down upon others who have been less successful. No, it is a time for giving thanks to God for all the blessings that he has showered upon the Club and its Members over the past two centuries.
In this wonderful Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London, I indeed, personally have double reason to rejoice. In 1985 I was out in Peru, building a monastery, as monks occasionally are wont to do. Just before that Christmas, I received a letter from the Chairman of the Regatta, Peter Coni, informing me of my election as a Steward; he added that, urged on by Gerald Ellison, retired Bishop of London and a Steward himself, he was inviting me to preach at the Regatta Service in St Mary’s Church. I therefore remember Gerald with great affection and gratitude as I stand in what was once his pulpit.
To be sure, many of us will be rejoicing at the outstanding success of members of the Club in World and Olympic competition, and quite rightly so. But I am sure all of us will know that this joy is only a reflection of that true and primary joy which comes from God. Isaiah in our First Reading speaks of that joy which comes from the glory and the majesty of the Lord.
True joy is not the absence of sorrow or pain – we know only too well how they can simultaneously be present in our lives. It’s not pretending that we are happy when we are not. Nor is joy something we can manufacture ourselves, and it is certainly not something we can purchase. True and lasting joy comes when God comes.
True joy comes when our eyes are opened so that we can see God’s presence and know his love. When we receive this gift of joy, our response is always to share that joy.
And so in this year of thanksgiving, it must be our wish and our prayer, that God would open our eyes to his presence and his love, so that we can continue to receive and share God’s gift of joy. Then, for us pilgrims, the joy of our earthly success can be said to be a reflection of that true joy.
Meditating upon this theme of the joy of victory, and of gold medals, in my preparation for this sermon, I decided I would bring along with me two winners of Olympic gold medals, Members of Leander. Their medals are separated by a period of 40 years, but they are father and son.
When Stewards are elected they are given a badge, which is and remains the property of the Regatta; and at the death of a Steward, the badge is returned to the Regatta. When I was elected there were no spare badges, so I was given a new one. Over the years as coach, and later as a Steward, I became good friends with Richard Burnell, so when he died, in January 1995, I asked if I could return my badge and become the custodian of his.
Today, on my Choir Dress, I am wearing that badge – it also belonged to Richard’s father’s Don, before he himself inherited it. I therefore feel that both Don, gold medal in the eight in 1908, and Richard, gold medal in the double sculls in 1948, are here in spirit with us today, celebrating Leander this evening. They were, and are, part of the Leander family and tradition, as are so many others. We celebrate them all this evening.
Saint Paul, in our Second Reading tells us that all athletes compete, but that only one wins the prize. Athletes must train with intensity in order to win the contest. What is more, he adds, self-discipline and training entails punishing the body, enslaving it to win a crown of laurel leaves which, within days, becomes a withered wreath. How much more, he adds, should Christians discipline themselves to win that crown that does not wither which is eternal life. To athletes and coaches this concept of punishing the body is certainly not an alien one; in the daily grind of preparation for competition it becomes the staple diet. How many athletes have not at times wondered why they were putting their bodies through that torture? But, when the medal ribbon passes over the head, it all becomes so worth it. That wreath, that medal, Paul says, is a reflection of the everlasting one every Christian is called to strive for.
So, this evening, as we rejoice and celebrate our victories we gratefully remember the many people, the oarsmen and women in the last two centuries who have made Leander the great Club that it is. We acknowledge the immense debt of gratitude we owe to the officials, the coaches and all who are involved in any way in helping the Club to continue to grow and be a leader and an example of true sportsmanship.
And we pray that our Club will continue to be blessed by God. Amen.