The organisation that goes into Garter day here in Windsor Castle is quite extraordinary.There are the rehearsals, careful planning of time, consideration of the unpredictable nature of our English weather, organisation of security, music, military bands, processions, guards of honour, press, allocation of seats in the Chapel and the organisation of many hundreds of people who gather in the Castle to experience the event – the list could go on and on.
The day got off to a poor start with persistent rain.We gathered in Chapel early for matins followed by the Eucharist for are transferred St George’s Day at the HighAltar. The silence and space of the Chapel continue to shape my own growth in the spiritual life. Somehow this building helps to put life into some measure of perspective mainly by reminding me (and I pray others) that so many of our preoccupations and concerns are so trivial in the light of the sheer vastness of the presence of God in time and beyond into eternity. I pray that both self preoccupation and selfishness might be transformed and transfigured by the mercy of God.
As the prayer for St George is offered with its theme of courage the military bands are to be heard practising outside within the castle walls. Perhaps in 21st-century England there is a struggle and even battle for the integrity and truth of the Christian voice.In this secular world so many dismiss who we are and what we stand for.
There are many people moving around the castle each with their allotted tasks.for those of us who live here there is an opportunity to offer hospitality to friends and College guests.So much of the morning is taken up with the preparation for lunch prior to the service at three o’clock.An air of anticipation and preparation fills the cloisters.
I spend most of the earlier part of the morning preparing the table and always enjoy gathering people around it. I have 16 guests for lunch, including some old friends who I haven’t seen for a while.it will be a simple cold lunch of Salmon, Coronation Chicken and Quiche. Champagne and some very decent white burgundy I hope will help us along our way.
As 12 o’clock strikes first guests arrive at the party gets underway – lots of conversation and laughter and goodwill throughout the house.
the food is appreciated and I enjoy the connecting people with each other – careful consideration of the seating plan helps renew old friendships and perhaps even forge new ones.
So we moved to Pudding and then some space to brush down, put on hats on and then we move to the Chapel. There is a tangible sense of excitement as I see my guests to their seats. The Chapel is filling up and I then moved to the Galilee porch where the canons are required to meet and greet. There is a sound of music and a great deal of noise from the guests standing and seated on the grass below the military Knights houses in Lower Ward. Soldiers take their place at the band marches past and slowly the guests emerge .
We then take our place for the procession.We join the Garter Knights as they come through the horseshoe cloister ready to ascend the steps the West End of St Georges Chapel. There is a fanfare of trumpeters heralding the arrival of the sovereign and the service begins. It is always very good to see the Chapel so packed and the worship unfolds with majestic music, hymns , prayers and Scripture.
Finally at the end we take our place in the procession out of the Chapel and moved towards some tea to sustain travellers on their way.gradually the castle empties and we are left – some of us to do a great deal of washing up – but there is a quiet and empty space of the Chapel where a few of us gather to say evening prayer at six o’clock. The noise and activity at the grandeur of the day take their proper place within the discipline of our regular prayer.There is of course much to be thankful for as we ask God’s blessing the ministry and mission of this place.
A small glimpse of Garter day 20 12.
May God save our gracious sovereign, and all the companions living and departed of the most honourable and Noble order of the Garter.