We celebrated the lovely space those builders created at St M's by putting up a platform for a small and simple forward altar. When I came up for Evening Prayer (after the splendour of the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral, with more clergy and bishops than you could ever dream of shaking a stick at [not sure why you should want to...] AND the same tabby cat who was took part in our ordination service, and who had clearly returned to renew his vows along with the rest of the college of clergy) WonderfulVicar had just finished setting it up and asked if it was "alright".
It was perfectly beautiful...a small table, a white cloth and 2 quiet candlesticks - it had a quality of stillness that made me weep inside and was one of the most real parts of an incredible evening.
The effect of being there behind that table as I presided was huge for me...There was a quality of intimacy and of vulnerability that just isn't there when you are up at the high altar with all its splendours, though they are right and proper at other times. In the morning FabBishop had preached about remembering as "bringing the past into the present" and this felt very very real as we gathered on Thursday night...I placed real bread in a wooden bowl and somehow we were there in the Upper Room.
Footwashing was particularly moving too...There were 2 benches on the platform, and some loved and beautiful feet (feet that preach the gospel of peace each and every day) to wash. As always we had trouble finding 12 volunteers (I was sad that Marcella arrived too late to be asked...her feet had worked so hard to bring good news through her walk earlier this month, I would have been honoured to wash them) so when I'd worked my way along the lines, with WonderfulVicar moving the bowl, freeing me to pour, wash and dry, he sat on the platform and I got to wash his feet...That felt so very very right and I'm grateful that I was able to do it.
Then the Communion, and a precious fragment of love given to each person...and suddenly we had to move on. This was not the evening to linger around the table and relax with friends..it was time to strip the altars, to listen to the choir singing psalm 22 in a darkened church...events were unfolding over which we had no control...Soon the church was almost empty. I moved the big wooden cross into the chapel and laid it on the purple cloth, with hammer, nails and whip at the ready. The Watch had begun.