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Choirs left stranded by ash cloud

22 April 2010

by Ed Beavan

TWO cathedral choirs and a bishop were among hundreds of thousands of British people stranded abroad because of the ash cloud caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Ice­land.

On Wednesday morning, British air­ports reopened after being closed for six days. An estimated 150,000 British people are marooned over­seas.

Two cathedral choirs were stuck in North America after completing singing tours. Members of the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir should have returned to the UK last Friday, after a ten-day tour of the United States, but were stuck in Miami for several days. They were due to fly back from Philadelphia as the Church Times went to press on Wednesday.

The choir has 40 members, in­cluding 22 girls aged between nine and 14, and male choristers from the cathedral choir. They were all being “extremely well cared for by host families” in the US, said the diocesan communications officer for St Albans, Arun Kataria.

Members of Rochester Cathedral’s Voluntary Choir were in a similar predicament. They were scheduled to return to the UK on Thursday of last week, after touring the Seattle area.

On Sunday, they flew to Edmon­ton, in Canada, where they were hosted by families from All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral in the city, where they sang evensong. On Tuesday, Douglas Henn-Macrae, the choir’s director, said that the group of 25 — which included a baby — remained in good spirits, but it was a “very strange experience.

“Obviously, everyone is keen to get back, but we have been wonderfully, wonderfully hosted. We have ‘sung for our supper’ for our hosts here in Edmonton, and even made it on to the front page of the Edmonton Journal.

“The young people are holding up particularly well — four of the girls need to get back for AS levels, and one of them missed a Spanish oral exam.” He said that they would be prepared to fly back to another destination in Europe, and then try to get back to the UK by other means.

The Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, Dr Bob Gillies, was stranded in New York after attending the consecration of the new Bishop of Connecticut, Dr Ian Douglas, in the city of Hartford, on Saturday. The two dioceses are linked. The Bishop had been due to return on Sunday. The delay means he could miss the consecration of the Very Revd Gregor Duncan as the new Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway (News, 22 January), which is to take place today.

About half of the members of the Anglican-Lutheran International Com­mission — mostly those based in Europe — were unable to attend its meeting in Columbus, in the US, this week, although many of the absent members were able to participate through Skype.

An ecumenical delegation from Wales, which was scheduled to visit Syria this week in a bid to build up interfaith relations, and had been due to meet the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, had to be cancelled. The Bishops’ Adviser on Church and So­ciety of the Church in Wales, Canon Robin Morrison, who was to have gone on the trip, said that they were “dis­appointed”.

In a letter to the Church Times, the Executive Director of the Farm Crisis Network, the Revd Sarah Brown, said that the current predicament could be interpreted as a “gentle warning” to the UK over its food ethics.

She questioned what would hap­pen if a larger-scale incident reduced the ability of the UK to import half its vegetables, and asked why the UK relied on importing 95 per cent of its fruit and vegetables, while Kenya was “only able to support its farmers through export of high-quality veget­ables to affluent Britain when its own population makes do with a lower-grade diet”.

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