Rector's Letter for April
DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS,
Here’s something I have learnt recently. Easter more commonly happens in April than in March. And, for those who like their facts, there is a possible 35 day window in which Easter can happen; 22 March to 25 April. So this year’s Easter, though late, is not out of the ordinary. It’s all to do with the timing of the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. One of the great historians of our country, Bede, a monk (673-735AD) spent a lot of time working this date out. We still use the system that intrigued him, the ‘Computus’, to calculate Easter.
The problem with a moveable feast is that sometimes we get more excited about the date than about the feast itself. So, we get surprised by when Lent has started and fumble some sort of ‘discipline’ (how’s that going, by the way?); Mothering Sunday creeps up on us, bringing a kaleidoscope of thoughts, depending where we are in life; Holy Week services are not in our diary and commit ourselves to doing something rather than spending time with the Church. In other words, unlike Christmas with its fixed rhythm, we find inhabiting this Season so much more difficult.
This year, however, we have a bit more time to prepare ourselves and, if necessary, to re-set the heart. The Church of England gives the name “Passion Sunday” to the fifth Sunday of Lent (7th April this year). Our services shift their focus at this point, moving from following Jesus as he walks towards Jerusalem to thinking more about the Cross. Our liturgical colour changes from the purple of Lent to the red of Passiontide. We shall put up a large cross in Church, made from our Christmas tree of last year. This visually reminds us not only about that this is Passiontide but also that this story, the Jesus-dying-outside-Jerusalem story is intimately linked with the birth story. The wood of the Crib and the wood of the Cross both carry Jesus. Christmas and Easter are the two pegs on which we hang our faith.
Traditionally throughout Lent, the crosses in Church would be covered with a purple cloth. On Passion Sunday, this would change to a rough unbleached linen cloth. It might seem odd that the focus of Lent, the Cross, be hidden. The point is that the Cross, which in Church is often rather beautifully decorated, is veiled to make us think more deeply about the mystery of God’s love for us. Familiarity, as we know, can lead us not to see the sheer nature of our Lord’s sacrifice. Sometimes, when we think we are making religious things beautiful, we are merely making them pretty and evacuating their impact.
Our former Christmas tree Cross is meant to challenge us, not make us feel good.
The Holy Week Services can be found here, and hard copies are available at the back of church.
When I was a student I had a remarkable experience in Holy Week. Before then, I had attended Palm Sunday service and, because I was in the Church Choir, I went to Maundy Thursday evening service, the “first hour” on Good Friday, which was part of a three hour marathon (when I was never too sure whether to pity the preacher or the nether regions of the congregation) and then the main service on Easter morning. As a student, when we were encouraged to turn up to as much as possible (as I am doing to you now), my eyes were opened to the capacity of the Church’s worship to understand what being a disciple of Jesus Christ was all about. So, if you are one of those who only come to Church on a Sunday, add one extra occasion to the list. If you come to Good Friday (and there is so much of me that wonders why people come to Church on Easter Day if they have not been on Good Friday – Easter only makes sense if we spend time with Christ on the Cross), then come to an additional service…. These services, which draw on ancient texts of the Church, truly inspire the heart.
And finally, back to practicalities. The Church, though it is the Body of Christ, is also a functioning community, needing the immense generosity of volunteers and helpers to run all the things that God is calling us to do in Christ’s name. We have our Annual Parochial Church Meeting after our 10.00am Service on Sunday 7th April in the Blackburne Hall. We will receive the Report, hear of activities in the past year, plans for the future, appoint Sidespeople and elect our new Church Wardens and PCC members. We do encourage you to come.
With love and prayers,