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Missionaries’ son to sing for Princess Di’s funeral

LONDON (BP)–The world will be watching when Jonathan Kirk, son of Southern Baptist missionaries Tom and Carolyn Kirk, takes to the choir risers next time to glorify God.
The 12-year-old boy was selected as one of 24 members of the Westminster Abbey boys choir scheduled to perform before world leaders and celebrities at the funeral service for Princess Diana Sept. 6.
Millions of people from all corners of the globe will be watching.
The princess died just hours after rescuers extracted her, her boyfriend, bodyguard and driver from the wreckage of a Mercedes Benz Aug. 30. The bodyguard was the only survivor.
The Kirks, International Mission Board missionaries since 1984, now live and work in Porto Allegre, Brazil. From 1993 through 1996 during a leave of absence while his wife was being treated for cancer, Tom Kirk was pastor of Beverley Baptist Church in his wife’s hometown in northern England. In March 1996 Jonathan was invited to study at the Westminster Abbey Choir School, where he remained after his parents returned to Brazil.
Jonathan was visiting his family in Porto Allegre when he received a call from Martin Neary, the Westminster Abbey choirmaster, asking him to consider singing at the funeral. Neary is coordinating music for the funeral service.
“He cried before he left,” said his mother. “He cried because it was so tragic the way Diana died, and also because he didn’t really want to leave his brothers.”
Jonathan, the oldest of the Kirk’s three sons, had planned a three-week break from his demanding studies and performances. But after he and his family prayed together, they decided to buy his mother and him airline tickets to London to begin practice Sept. 3, cutting his break short by eight days.
“His middle brother, Barnabus, was very generous and said, ‘Jonathan, we want you to spend more time here but you must go. You need to go,'” said his mother.
Jonathan and his choir mates will sing three hymns, in addition to “The 23rd Psalm” and parts of “Requiem” by the composer Verdi, a favorite of the princess, according to the British daily, The Evening Standard.
In England, the mass outpouring of grief and sympathy over Diana’s death has stunned even Britons and forced officials to alter plans for the funeral proceedings for the sake of crowd control.
“I think it has to do with people being shocked into the realization of their own mortality and question marks about the meaning of life,” said Carolyn Kirk.
“England is a spiritually needy country, and people don’t have answers for why she died or what was the purpose of her life. They are devastated by the death of a young person.”
The Abbey choir enjoys a fitting platform to reveal the Word of God through its music, she added. In fact, many of the boys who belong to the choir are evangelicals, and a “little circle” of parents pray for the choir. “We pray that the work our boys are doing would always be pleasing to God, and that they will sing from their hearts to glorify our Lord and not just sing empty notes.”
Kirk recounted one Baptist woman who commutes every day to teach at the school prays for everyone at Westminster Abbey, including its staff members and employees, and the work of the choir school.
“Our concern is that the needy, secular country of England would be uplifted, challenged and really touched by the readings and the hymns and God’s Word, by everything that goes on in the funeral, that it wouldn’t just be a show,” Kirk said.

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  • Marty Croll