The longer one leaves something the harder it seems to be to get back to it - that certainly is the way things feel with this blog! I often think to myself 'oh, I should blog about that' but then think to myself - how would I introduce that? How do I make up for all those weeks with nothing said? Do I have to try and fill in all the gaps and explain exactly why it is that things have been so gappy?
So I decided I would open with a statement about it being difficult to get back into blogging, and then just carry on and see whether or not any/some/all of the thoughts that have bobbed up and waved a bit turn up in blog posts over the next days or weeks.
But without any more ado
Alleluia - Christ is risen!
It's that statement that makes us what we are - as Christians, I mean... So our celebrations of Easter and the lead up to it over Lent have been at the forefront of all I have done over the past six or so weeks. In fact our Lent course (which I wrote using material from my last Diocese) and all of the other events of the past weeks have dominated my time and energy usage pretty much since I came back from my Christmas break.
We take Lent seriously in these parts - or at least I do and some other folks join in too. This year's Lent course was a five week Bible study based around stories from the Gospels of encounters with Jesus. It was not as well attended as the talks I put on last year, which is odd because the criticisms of last year were all about too much talking from the front - this year when I offered Bible study people voted with their feet! The quality of the conversation and some of the profound and moving reflections from those who did take part in this series of events were exceptional though and it made it more than worth having prepared these evenings. It's not about the numbers!!! Quality not quantity is my motto!
Mothering Sunday was the usual celebration, with special services in all five parishes, of which I managed to lead three - glad we have a good ministry team here!
Holy week began with special services in each Parish plus an extra afternoon service in a local 'chapel of ease' in Whitford, I assisted one of the morning services, a joint service with our Baptist brothers and sisters in my home village of Kilmington which was a great celebration beginning with a procession around the village along with Benny the Donkey borrowed from 'The Donkey Sanctuary'. By the time we reached the Church there were about 100 people in the parade (in a village of 700 or so, that's a pretty impressive average) and we were joined by another fifty or so for the service. Even more important than any numbers (thought despite my quality not quantity motto I was encouraged by!) was the feeling of unity and celebration of Jesus our king. It was my privilege to preach at that service, a sermon I shall add to the New Kid Deep Stuff Blog soon.
For Holy Week we had a number of services following a similar pattern to the one observed in my very first Parish where I served as a curate. It brings home to me just how profoundly effected I was by the training I received all those years ago - an issue that will be at the forefront of my mind as we prepare for the arrival of a curate in training in our Mission Community in July.
So on Monday evening of Holy Week we had a small, intimate service of Holy Communion with prayers of penitence. A sort of spiritual 'clear out' before Easter, with the opportunity to sprinkle a few grains of incense on hot coals as a sign of letting go of the sins which separate us from God and neigbour.
Tuesday was another Holy Communion, this times with prayers of Healing - recognising the need for all people to receive healing in a broken world, all were invited to be prayed for by the minister leading the service. A refreshing and moving service.
Wednesday was a meditative service of Prayers and Readings for Holy Week. Some silence and reflection in a busy world. Another thing for me to blog on another time, I think.
Maundy Thursday saw the Eucharist of Chrism (blessing of Holy Oils) and renewal of Ministerial Vows at the Cathedral in Exeter. Very good service, with an excellent sermon from the Bishop of Plymouth - beautifully led by the Bishop of Crediton (as the Diocesan Bishop is on sabbatical).
Following this service I came home to deal with a few visits and then went to the Mission Community passover meal at Yarcombe - run by the Associate Priest to the Parishes it was a thought provoking, though joyful, celebration and explanation of the Seder meal and its history, along with the links between it and Holy Communion which inform our own celebrations and worship.
Good Friday had a very good family service with reflections on the cross and the nature of Jesus death and sacrifice. I always wondered how we could consider the Good Friday story in a way that made it accessible and engaging for people of all ages, and since experiencing the way that it was done in Bourn Parish where I served as Vicar before here I have tried to echo that here. Using activities, songs, readings and prayers along with images and symbols draws both adults and children into the story and the meaning behind it.
We observe the 'three hours' of Good Friday as three separate events in three different churches - with meditations and silence from noon til 1pm, the stations of the Cross from 1-2pm and meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from 2-3pm. I am not naturally inclined to silence, this is good, power, moving discipline for me!
Holy Saturday is a service free day until the evening, when it officially becomes Easter Eve and we prepare for the celebration of Easter Day with a vigil of readings and canticles and the lighting of the Easter Fire followed by the singing of Exultet and renewing of Baptism vows. A garden brazier was brought to Stockland Churchyard and we had a good blaze going but I couldn't light the Paschal candle from it!!!
And on Easter we celebrated - joyfully, movingly, prayerfully and faithfully. A good day indeed.
But all of these events took preparation, all the services were put together by me using various Anglican resources and we produced booklets for all of them. I took many but not all of the services, and my excellent team of lay and ordained ministers also took part in much of the activity and led and preached and generally enhanced events.
It's been tiring, but good. It's been tiring enough writing this - I should go now and will consider adding more later.
Happy Easter! Christ is alive!