009_copyMonkwearmouth, St. Andrew’s Church Wednesday June 4th I was young once, full of youthful energy and vitality. Well that’s what the memory cells tell me, though perhaps distorted over time a few decades later. Yet it was the exuberant youthfulness of the cast of performers who descended upon St. Andrew’s last Wednesday morning that will live in the memory. Sunderland university students, many studying performing arts degrees, who enriched the worship space in the church through their performance of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.” Informed sources describe the musical as one of the most difficult of musicals to master and perform well, not least having to adapt to the space within the church. A musical of characters from Little Red Riding Hood to Jack and the Beanstalk. From the baker to the wicked witch and Rapunzel dominating the pulpit, in the fantasy world of Grimm’s fairytale characters brought to life in word and song, to the triumph of good over evil. Perhaps a poignant time as the church moves from the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection to empowering of God’s goodness at Pentecost, the coming of God’s Holy Spirit upon the first disciples and to us today. One can only describe our engagement with the university students as a triumph, not least the relationships being built up with them and Professor Graeme Danby their musical director, an international opera singer. The quality of performance was mind blowing in the God given abilities in these young people performing at the highest level with an exuberance and maturity beyond their years. Not only the performances but in the many conversations, listening and engaging with them was a positive experience for the church. The many questions asked about the church, of our faith and belief, to their hopes and aspirations for what the future may bring. For many it was a bitter-sweet moment, emotions were running high, as for many the curtain was coming down on their time at university, a new phase of life yet to begin. Not least the fact that their performances were being marked as part of their university degree courses. There has been much positive feedback from the students as well as those who attended the performances, not least to our lives being enriched through their presence in church. I bumped into Paul, one of the cast, on the Metro yesterday and his parting word to me was “Thankyou,” one small word that means so much. We look forward to the return of Graeme and his students who will perform a Christmas concert in the church in December. From one, young at heart.

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