Boy Bishop Sermon
Salisbury Cathedral 2003
by Jonathan Moody—Head Chorister, aged 12 years
6th December 2003
The ceremony is based on ancient medieval traditions. Around the time of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the Bishop of Salisbury hands his staff to a chorister and installs him on his throne.
Jonathan was dressed in replica Bishop’s regalia—complete with a ring on his finger and the pastoral staff. The Boy Bishop preached a sermon (which he wrote himself) and blessed the people—a ceremony that is a lesson in humility and recognition of the wisdom of youthful innocence.
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
At twelve years old it seems rather odd that I should be standing here talking to you, but tradition says that as Bishop’s Chorister at the Boy Bishop’s service a boy of my aged is required to do so.
In order to do this I have to draw from my own experience of life. For some of my twelve years I have no memory, so there is no need to worry - you won’t be getting baby stories. With this in mind, I decided to focus on the two things that, looking back, have been most important in my life, and they are opportunity and choice.
My early memories are of trying very hard to catch up with my sister, Bryony. I know it made me very frustrated because I wanted what she had. I wanted to do what she did. My Mum once described us in a Christmas letter to friends by saying, “If Bryony had just happened to jump over a cliff, John would follow her.” A few years later this was still the case, but I might have asked “Why?” on the way down.
When Bryony became a chorister I decided that I would like to be one as well. This is where our paths divided and I got the hardest shock of all. I didn’t get in. Don’t worry, Mr Lole, I don’t hold it against you!
My parents always told me that I have my own life and my own path and that there is always a choice as to which way to turn. Almost a year after the voice trials at an Advent service I decided to put all of these thoughts into action and took charge of my own path. I decided to try for the choir again and this time succeeded. Had I not made this choice my school years would have been very different.
Being in the choir then led to many more opportunities in my life - going to Brazil, learning a lot more about music and team-work, performing, and even preaching a sermon. I’ve found it to be true not only in my time in the choir, but also in all areas of my life, that opportunities need teamwork.
And what better illustration of opportunity at team level than England’s fine performance in the Rugby World Cup? The teamwork, the four years’ preparation and the determination to succeed enabled the squad to secure victory by seizing the crucial opportunity within the final minutes. The whole team achieved the perfect position from which Jonny Wilkinson, the best kicker in the world, could snatch victory over Australia.
On the global field of play human beings do have the opportunity to bring peace and harmony to all. With ever quickening methods of communication there really is no excuse or reason that we should not enjoy perfect harmony as a people.
We must ask ourselves to what extent are our opportunities given to us by the people around us or by God. On the one hand it may seem that we may just be in the right place at the right time, yet on the other, those circumstances may simply be presented to us by God who sees every one of us worthy of that gift.
God gave me a gift to sing and lead the choir; this is where St Nicolas comes in. He gave children gifts to be happy, otherwise how would the concept of Santa Claus have come into being?
St Nicolas, Bishop of Myra and patron saint of children, seamen and travelers, gave people opportunities in their lives by his care and ability to rescue people and change their paths in life. I was given an opportunity when I got into the choir, even though it was on the second attempt!
We must remember: Christmas is the time when we have the opportunity to care and share. New Year is a time when we can look forward and forge ahead in our lives with renewed determination.
So at this time we are given the opportunity to combine caring and sharing which together can bring happiness.
Surely this should be our common goal? One which we can achieve by team effort.
Using one final rugby analogy, they don’t call me Jonny for nothing—my teammates have set me up this afternoon leaving me to do the converting! Amen.
By Jonathan Moody, 2003 Boy Bishop at Salisbury Cathedral Used by permission.