Well, we’ve made it thus far…despite everything that the week could throw at us.
Thursday's Chrism service in the Cathedral was beautiful, once you’d adjusted to the forest of surplices on every side (HopefulAmphibian remarked that it was like waking up as a small child so totally engulfed in your bedding that you couldn’t at first find a way out…there was white everywhere!)…
Home for an afternoon of manic preparations for the Youth Group’s observation of the Maundy Watch….Lovely Eucharist, and 12 very different feet to wash…my first time doing this at St M’s, and, as always, breathtakingly moving. What is it about feet, I wonder? They seem so vulnerable, somehow, when you are kneeling beside them with a bowl of water…
The Watch as observed by Koinonia (senior youth group) was its characteristic mixture of noise and silence, of silly games and loud music in the parish centre, and prayerful concentration in the church. This year, I’d arranged a display of objects relating to various characters in the passion narratives and invited the kids to handle them, think of ways in which they might be like the person represented and have a silent conversation with God. Judging by the attention they seemed to be paying, I think this worked. A sponsored reading of Mark and John was the constant undercurrent of the night in the parish centre….for the second year running, the readers congregated on the stairs, which made their reading utterly central both physically and mentally, to the whole experience of the Watch.
To my relief, I got round the problem of needing more rest than two dozen hyped up teenagers by retiring to the parish office at 2.00, and managed a good 4 hours of reasonable sleep, which made a huge difference to the day that followed. For the short service which concludes the Watch I handed round a bowl of nails, and asked the kids and the few adults who’d braved our company first thing on Good Friday morning, to hold them and consider ways in which we all hurt Christ each day…and at the end of the service I invited them to hammer these nails into our large rough cross. And I can testify that the sound of nails hammered into wood is utterly devestating when it is the first sound in the church after the 12 hours of intense, focussed silence.
I won’t forget that soon.
Good Friday liturgy, with proclamation of the cross …Charlton Kings Churches Walk of Witness, ending with the planting of the cross on Timbercombe Hill…3 hours (led by the retired Bishop of Derby, who was on stunning form, and gave us so much to take away and work with)….then home…as drained and exhausted as the disciples must surely have been.
Later, though, I rallied and returned to church for a concert…but thankful bed by 10.00
Holy Saturday morn saw me driving to Bristol, to do some work as a pastoral tutor for my old training course, WEMTC, who had spent Holy Week on their annual Easter School, this year looking at Death and Resurrection. Today’s speaker was Sheila Cassidy, who spoke about her experiences as a prioner in Pinochet’s Chile as well as her work with the dying. I’ve read, and benefitted from many of her books, - and I was in no way disappointed by hearing her speak. Amazing woman.
Home in time for a walk through for the Easter Liturgy. I worried a bit about incense grains, a bit more about the Exultet…but nothing had prepared me for what actually happened! The likely pressure points were fine…indeed, singing the Exultet was pure joy, feeling unbelievably fresh and real, as if I were truly the first person in the whole history of the world to be entrusted with proclaiming that message….though at the same time I was hugely aware that I was the first woman in the 800 years of St M’s to have sung those ancient words…
The unexpected happened as we gathered at the font to renew our baptism vows. Nobody had warned me that this part of the service had huge potential for slapstick, and truly, if someone told you about this, you would probably not believe them. Armed with a branch of rosemary, I embarked on sprinkling the gathered congregation, - but the rosemary snapped in my hand and went flying through the air, catching my youngest, who was looking every inch an angelic chorister, on the nose.
Never one to miss an opportunity, he seized it and threw it smartly back, - and it landed in the font, where it floated, disconsolate, while choir and congregation dissolved into helpless giggles.
By dint of looking very hard at my order of service, I avoided this myself, and we returned to the Chancel in reasonable order…
After this, all went smoothly…and I loved it, so so much.
The mixture of high liturgical drama and utter farce will stay with me for a long time to come. Thank God that I'm serving with a vicar and congregation who aren't afraid to share the gift of laughter....(and those who would have found it appallingly irreverent were mercifully all tucked up at home).
So, there we have it for Saturday. Who knows what Sunday may bring?
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia