In the middle of May I travelled up north for the weekend, to visit an old school friend. We went to a lot of concerts in Manchester together when we were younger, and we decided to carry on the tradition – the lead singer of one of our favourite bands has been touring following the release of a solo album, and my friend’s birthday was coming up!

My outward journey went like clockwork, and although there were a few delays on the way back into Manchester for the concert (nothing out of the ordinary, according to my friend!) there was still plenty of time to orientate ourselves and look forward to the evening. The venue, which was new to us and is now known as the Albert Hall, turned out to be a former Methodist chapel, and I instantly felt comfortable there – there were  simple stained glass windows still in place, which I could appreciate with my low vision aid, and the images of crosses in particular. The fact that it stayed light for a good part of the evening, and the sun came out late in the day, added to the beauty and the atmosphere.

The singer (Tom Chaplin from Keane) has sadly had some of the struggles with addictions so common for people in his position, but he’s always so warm in his appreciation of the support he has received from family, friends and fans, and he frequently describes himself as ‘blessed’. There’s one particular song called Solid Gold, which contains the line ‘Took me so long to find out I was blessed’ – it’s actually about his wife, but most of the lyrics could easily describe someone finally discovering the presence of God.

I found the whole evening powerful and poignant, as much for the enthusiastic singing of the devoted audience as for the actual performance. There was an atmosphere of worship there, and although it may not feel quite right for a former chapel to be used in that way, there was a real spirit of unity and community. In the light of what’s happened since in Manchester (of which more later), I pray for everyone who was there, that they may find comfort and peace in the music they love, and sense God’s healing presence in their lives.

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