This having been my first Easter as a proper grown up priest with 2 parishes to call my own, a spot of reviewing of the past week's manic activity seems called for.
Overall it has been wonderful & 2 particular struggles (the need for new orders of service for practically everything & the struggles of producing them via one handed typing & the general challenges of the arm) should, please God, be unique to this year.
- the opportunity to be creative with the worship offered from Monday to Wednesday & the pleasure with which this was received...I now feel able to plan a monthly creative happening of some kind. Small numbers wont matter but knowing that there are half a dozen others who would be glad to see something develop is a huge encouragement & putting this sort of thing together feeds my soul too.
- the lovely intimacy of a congregation small enough to gather around the table on Maundy Thursday & a largely similar group around the fire and the font on Holy Saturday night;
- kneeling with my colleagues before the cross on Good Friday;
- the recording of the Wesley psalm 22 that the Dufflepud found & played as we stripped the altars - not the same as having St M's choir to sing for us, but a very acceptable substitute all the same. Using recorded music to enhance atmosphere went very well sltogether & emboldens me to try more too.
- singing the Exultet in the dark church - there's such a feeling of history combined with freshness: on one hand, I'm very aware that I'm using words & chant that go back to the eighth century, and I'm conscious of all those who have stood and sung as I now stand and sing - but at the same time it feels as if I am proclaiming the resurrection for the first time ever...I realise that makes no sense at all, but is truly my experience
- seeing a mini egg clutched in an elderly lady's hand as she came up to Communion (on arrival at the All Age Communion yesterday everyone was given a glass pebble; in the prayersthey were asked to use these to represent all the stones that are rolled across to cut us off from sharing Christ's risen life & invited to leave them at the Easter garden, in exchange for an egg - sounds a bit tacky but went down so so well).
- really good congregations at both churches (though church in the valley is big enough to demand unrealistic numbers before it feels full, most of those who were with us on Palm Sunday returned to share the Easter joy; tiny church on the hill was crammed - and I ran out of eggs)
- Another high (for which I had no responsibility whatsoever) was the Chrism Mass on Thursday: it's always inspiring to renew ordination vows alongside so many others - this year two sides of the cloister at Glos were filled as we waited to process in - a great flock of white birds flapping gently - & lovely to catch up with friends, of course
- perhaps because we had put so many resources into Experience Easter, there seemed to be very little to engage children...I had hoped some younger families would share the Good Friday walk, but having trudged up the hill myself can see it's a bit much for younger children, & the stations as they stand would be unlikely to hold their interest. On the other hand, the tradition has been in place for a good long time, it's a rare opportunity for the two churches to do something together - and the cross on the hill looks simply stunning from the by-pass below - a very public statement
- the Agape on Maundy Thursday was gently convivial, but again would not have worked for families...perhaps we have a Messy Church passover meal next year (though not on Maundy Thursday); I want to see the questioning and story-telling restored. Also because it followed straight on from the meal it was hard for those who wanted to attend the Eucharist but not the meal to know when they should appear; I'm told this deterred a few who would otherwise have joined us
- where was everyone on Good Friday in the valley? Several of the Sunday congregation are older, non-drivers who might well hesitate to turn out in the evening, so a low attendance on Thursday was sad but unsurprising, but I was disappointed that more people did not appear for the Last Hour at the Cross. I would have thought this would be absolutely on the map for most of the regulars - but clearly not. Despite all I could say about the need to experience Holy Week, rather than leap from Sunday to Sunday, that is very much what the majority did
- it was sad that church on the hill were unwilling to either host any of the additional services or, for the most part, to travel down the hill to experience them.
- it's a real struggle to light a taper from a blazing fire in a dustbin
- check whereabouts of incense grains before switching all the lights off
- a congregation that isnt used to gaving the Eucharistic prayer sung wont instinctively know how to sing responses to "The Lord be with you.."etc
- the tendency to consider numbers when evaluating "success" (another dodgy term) MUST be resisted: though I came home anxious from the Good Friday service, I actually had a really complimentary email..............and, now I think about it, I have No Idea whether the church was full or practcally empty on those occasions when God was specially evident to me as I sat in the pews
- if you invite readers in advance, it's a way to lure more people along & also enables them to practice reading in normal light levels (ie completely unlike the situation in church -oh well!)
- if you want people to make lots of noise at the start of the Gloria - give them the means to do so & tell them this is what you want!
- repeat till you get the message: just because worship does not match SJDK or St M's, it's not a problem
- not all parishes have a tradition of major church cleaning on Holy Saturday morning: if youu want this to happen, you have to mention it!