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Congregation celebrates life of iconic Irish hymnwriter

A large congregation of people from across Clogher Diocese and beyond paid tribute to the hymnwriter Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander with an evening of praise interspersed with stories about her life on Sunday evening, 10th March.

Marking the 200th anniversary of her birth, the evening of praise in St. Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, completed a weekend of celebration of the iconic Irish hymnwriter, as a two–day exhibition was also organised by Clogher Diocesan Board of Religious Education.

The exhibition comprised items on loan from St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry, and St Bestius’ Parish Church, Killeter, and covered Mrs Alexander’s life from her birth in Dublin until her death in Derry, where her husband, the Right Revd William Alexander, was Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. He went on to become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All–Ireland.

The exhibition featured letters, manuscripts and photographs of family members and places where the Alexanders lived during their life together serving in the Church of Ireland. The exhibition attracted people from all over Ireland, including some distant descendants of the Alexanders.

A welcome to the praise service was given by Dean Kenneth Hall of St Macartin’s Cathedral and Canon Desmond Kingston from the Clogher Diocesan Board of Religious Education introduced the service with prayer.

The praise evening included narration of the life–story of Mrs Alexander by Mrs Eva Baxter interspersed with the singing of almost a dozen of her well–known hymns. During one section of the story, Rebekah Clingan, dressed as Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, walked along the aisle to show people how she would have dressed in the 1800s.

Taking part in the service were members of St Macartin’s Cathedral Choir as well as the GFS choir from Clogher Diocese which included the All–Ireland President, Mrs Alison Jackson.

The service opened with the processional hymn, “The Golden Gates are lifted up”, followed by “Once in royal David’s city” with a first verse solo by James Morrison.

The GFS choir sang “Do no sinful action” and the Cathedral Choir sang; “All things bright and beautiful” with a quartet singing “When wounded sore the stricken soul”.

Another hymn, “His are the thousand sparking rills”, was sung with a first verse solo by Jane McKinley.

Other hymns sung included “There is a green hill far away” with a solo by David Burton, “Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult,” “In the roll–call of God’s son,” “To the God of our creation” and “For all Thy saints a noble throng”.

The organist was Mr Glenn Moore with Warren Kerr and Gavin Rogers on cornet and Rodney White on drums. The choir conductor was Jayne Malcolmson.

The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd John McDowell, gave the closing remarks and blessing.

 

Mrs Eva Baxter narrating the life-story of Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander.
Mrs Eva Baxter narrating the life-story of Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander.

 

Part of St Macartin's Cathedral choir singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.
Part of St Macartin's Cathedral choir singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.

 

Some of the congregation attending the praise evening of hymns written by Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander.
Some of the congregation attending the praise evening of hymns written by Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander.

 

Rebekah Clingan dressed as Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander for the praise service in St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen.
Rebekah Clingan dressed as Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander for the praise service in St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen.