Today the church remembers William Byrd, 1623, John Merbecke, 1585, and Thomas Tallis, 1585, Musicians.The sixteenth century was not a time of religious peace and quiet. England was in the midst of the Tudor reigns, where the Church in England broke with Rome, returned to Rome, and then severed ties again. Political factions and religious factions cost people their livelihood and often their lives. In this environment of religious turmoil, Thomas Tallis and John Merbecke composed their prayerful music. Both men composed sublime mass settings to accompany church liturgy, and Tallis established the rich and beautiful tradition that would become English Church music. While diversity is valued theoretically, actually living with such wide-ranging opinions and understandings of life and faith is difficult and challenging for most of us. We humans have been “you"re either with me or against me” for eons, as if we will suddenly bully the other into consensus—or as if we even know what consensus is. History tells us that will not happen. History tells us our diversity of opinions and ideas will continue to exist. History also shows us that in the midst of our disagreements and turmoil, in the midst of religious controversy, political upheaval, and the changes and chances of this life, we have those who find ways to remind us of the value of diversity in the beauty of music. And through the collection of notes and chords, we hear the beauty of diversity coming together to form a symphony. From Merbecke"s classic adaptation of Gregorian chant to The Book of Common Prayer to Tallis" grand anthems, we celebrate the beauty that only the rich diversity of music can witness to us. And hopefully remember that God sings with all the sounds of creation. God of creation, give us grace to hear the fullness of your song in the diversity that surrounds us. Teach us to value all the music of your creation and to respect all your children who sing your songs of love and grace.
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O God most glorious, whose praises are sung night and day by your saints and angels in heaven: We give you thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis, whose music has enriched the praise that your Church offers you here on earth. Grant, we pray, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join your saints in heaven and behold your glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.