Inspiration from the Spire | When the queen pays a visit

Last Sunday was a big event for us at St Alban’s Church. The queen of Denmark was our guest. Her Majesty joined us to celebrate the completion of our restoration of this historic building. It has taken several years, and included the stained-glass windows, heating, stonework and bells.

A couple of years ago we noticed that the Victorian stained-glass was in a dangerous state. Two whole windows had been fitted inside out, and it took over a century for us to notice! The glass has now been carefully cleaned, the lead replaced, and the corroded iron rods replaced by stainless steel.

We have increased the number of our historic bells – from Harrington of Coventry – from eight to 15, so increasing our musical possibilities. Merry tunes now ring out each hour across Churchillparken, from ‘Morning has broken’ to start the day, to ‘The day thou gavest Lord has ended’ at its close.  

The organ by Harrison of Durham has been fully cleaned, the heating made more efficient, stonework by Doulton restored, and new drainage has been connected. St Alban’s Anglican Church is glowing with refreshed sound, light, music and smiling faces.

Built in 1887, St Alban’s Church was the vision of Princess Alexandra of Denmark who went on to become Queen Alexandra of England in 1901 when her husband became Edward VII. So in many ways St Alban’s symbolises the close relationship between our two nations.

The day started with a buzz in the air. A group of our children gathered at the door holding large letters spelling WELCOME. Daniel was chosen to present the posie of flowers. He looked a bit anxious, but delivered them with courtesy and style.

We hedged our bets by using flowers of all colours, and when HM arrived, her maroon colour choice perfectly matched the floral colours. In England, bookies take bets on what colour Queen Elizabeth might wear at Royal Ascot. Nothing as vulgar as that could possibly happen here in Denmark!

Churchwardens Chris and Claire were in position with their wands of office. Claire’s wonderful hat set the scene for a multicoloured array of ladies hats in the congregation. Jane the verger was lined up sporting her new mediaeval verger’s bonnet. Bishop Geoffrey’s mitre was in place – a rare sight in these Lutheran lands. I popped on my Canterbury cap, but took it off when my wife arrived and whispered in my ear: “You look ridiculous!”

The royal car arrived, Daniel presented the flowers, I did my formal bow from the waist and shook hands with Her Majesty, and then I led her into Choral  Evensong. We used the 1611 King James Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This 400-year-old poetry, literature and music has stood the test of time and set the standard and tone for so much of our history and culture. We also sang a modern hymn specially written by Bishop Geoffrey Rowell about Saint Ansgar, and the hour was over.

I escorted Her Majesty to her car, and when my wife wasn’t looking, popped on my ridiculous hat! It was a happy day of hats, flowers, smiles, great singing by our choir, and thankfulness for the restored St Alban’s Church and all the people who have made it happen.