My memories of Holy Week actually begin with the Stations of the Cross, each week different depending on our guide and the text used but all equally meaningful. The lunch that June gives us each Friday is the perfect way to end the walk.
The palms of course and being a very small part in The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew play. It is not exactly Oberammergau but we do our best. We sing hymns that I learned in school, a long long time ago.
The only thing I know about Maundy Thursday is that the Queen gives out little red purses of money to some elderly people, I am therefore completely taken aback at the actual service I witness. The feet washing is a revelation, I think most of of the congregation
have their feet washed and there certainly isn't any sign of embarrassment. Later Father Steven is prepared by Father Alan and Father Desmond to carry the Blessed Sacrament to the Lady Chapel and I notice that the symbol on the back of his vestments is the Chi Rho, the same symbol that is on the linens I chose for the lavabo, purificator, corporal etc: now known as Mary's Linens, in memory of Mary Wheeler (Head Linen Lady) who died in December and is sorely missed. The service continues and Father Steven is speaking from the steps to the Lady Chapel. The lights are dimmed, the altar is stripped and I have tears running down my cheeks.
We arrive at Trinity Church early and there aren't many here but that soon changes. There is a short service, Bishop Rob in good form as always, and we set off complete with police escort. Andrew is carrying the cross and I am so pleased for him, this is what he wanted. We hear that some churches have abandoned the Walk of Witness due to lack of interest. They should see us this morning, easily a couple of hundred people with more joining us en route. Then it's all back to St. Michaels for hot cross buns and tea or coffee. The Walk has been so successful that Mary says we have run out of buns. It couldn't get better than that.
The afternoon service is another beautiful experience. We sing 'Were you there when they crucified My Lord?' more tears. I remember Bishop Rob's sermon this morning, when he said we were all there Then we have The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John, followed by the Veneration of the Cross. Most of the congregation wait very quietly to kiss the feet on the Crucifix. Evelyn has saved some of Mary's Linens to be used over Easter and it is so moving to see it being used today for Communion from the Reserved Sacrament.
Easter Vigil Saturday
Father Steven has asked if we can rally a few helpers to give the church a bit of extra sparkle for tonight. We get off to a flying start with mops, brooms, polish and dusters when June calls time for elevenses, that means CAKE, June's CAKE. We sit round in a circle and eat Lemon Drizzle and Rock cakes. We chatter and laugh and all is right with the world. St. Michaels is shining again, the silver is gleaming and the flower arrangements made by June, Eileen, Margaret and Maryam (sorry if I've left anyone out) are made with such care and attention to make sure they just right, are a true labour of love. June has asked Peter to help her with the Easter Garden. A few people have asked what is the Easter Garden. The only analogy I can come up with is it is like a nativity scene but instead of a stable and a manger, we have a garden, the tomb and the stone rolled back..
This evening is particularly important to me because it was on Vigil night last year that I came into St. Michaels for this service and immediately felt something special about this place. I met Father Steven for the first time and straight away knew that this was where I wanted to be baptised and confirmed. At 69 it it's about time but I had never felt such a compelling force before. During this service we renew our baptism vows and there I am again, more tears. After the service we have a bring and share supper, and then out to the garden for fireworks. Mandy is standing beside me just as she did a year ago when she was the first friend I made at St. Michaels. God bless you Mandy.
We stand outside where the Easter Candle is lit from the fire and then enter the church and go to stand around the Easter Garden and Peter is beaming. We hear the Children's Choir sing, this is their debut. We are sprinkled with blessed water at the font and our candles are lit. When the service is over the grown-ups go over to Hartley Hall and toast the unveiling of the stunning mosaic in the lobby and the children start looking for the Easter eggs that have been hidden in the church.
The services over the past few days have been beautiful, sad, joyful,uplifting, rewarding, I could go and on and I remember that a lot of hard work has gone into making Easter, the most important event in the Christian calendar, what it is at St. Michaels.
I wish that I had read more about the customs and rituals that I have seen over the past few days but I have plenty of time to learn, until next year when, please God, we will do it all over again.
It has been a wonderful year. I have experienced so much, totally new to me, since joining St. Michaels and met some lovely people. My outlook has changed in so many ways and I hope that I am better for it.