March 29, 2016 in Dean's Blog
Easter Day: March 27th 2016
Easter morning began with an alarm at 4.45am in order to get dressed and ready for the Ecumenical Sunrise Service at the American Mission Hospital, an occasion that draws nearly a thousand people. The choir were in better voice than the congregation, most of whom are clearly not used to liturgical responses, except the occasional Alleluia, Amen. Christ is risen. He has risen indeed! falls a little flat and my attempt at introducing a responsive intercession – God of hope, fill us with joy and peace in believing – was also very muted. But it is a good thing for different churches to get together in this way on Easter morning and I am grateful to the National Evangelical Church for this initiative. Certainly we do not have the space to host such a service ourselves.
It was good to be able to get back to greet the Tamil congregation at the conclusion of their service, celebrating their second birthday as a congregation and this year rather than trying to lead both Awali and the Cathedral morning services, Jon went to Awali and I stayed back at the Cathedral, which enabled me to hide Easter eggs around the garden before 10am. We had good congregations at both Awali and the Cathedral which vindicated that decision and certainly it reduced the rush. On Easter Sunday night we fly out to the UK, attending a nephew’s wedding tomorrow at 1.00pm in Kent and then spending a week’s houseparty celebrating our eldest’s 30th birthday in Ross-on-Wye with family and friends coming and going.
Easter Eve: Saturday 26th March 2016
In the first part of the service we continued The Nail, with Elizabeth taking the part of Pilate’s wife haunted by her dreams and reflecting on the blame attributed to Pilate for his weakness and lack of integrity and leading into a reflection on the forgiveness that is offered through all that Jesus has done on the cross.
At 9.15am I was picked up and taken to St Paul’s Mar Thoma Church, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a congregation. As they had begun their life in the cathedral, they had invited me as the “honoured guest” to open their souvenir book and say a few words. I arrived towards the end of their Communion service and ushered into the sanctuary.
Following the service there were a few speeches, but not too wordy and some kind words from Dr Zechariah, who is their priest but who returns to Kerala at the end of April to continue a ministry as a counselor there. Dr Zechariah took part in Jon’s ordination to the priesthood and has felt a part of the cathedral community.
Good Friday: 25th March 2016
As in the previous two years, we used as a basis for the Good Friday Family service one prepared by Barnabas in Churches –www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk/good–friday/ – which, I think, is very
well thought through and is able to respond to the needs of both children and adults on this solemn day. The service journeys through Jesus last 24 hours: beginning in
the Upper Room, moving to the Garden of Gethsemane, going on to the Court Room and finishing at the place of crucifixion. At each place there is an introduction, a Bible reading, an explanation and a symbolic action. The Courtroom scene this year was particularly powerful with “the crowds” really getting into role in their demands that Jesus should be crucified and Barabbas set free. Bible readings were taken from The Lion Bible for Children by
Murray Watts who is a playwright and has a gift at getting to the heart of the story in a powerful way. I can certainly commend it for use on Good Friday in all age services. In fact I would use nothing else. Like the Nine Lessons and Carols it bears regular repeating.
The Three Hour 12 noon service was based on Stephen Cottrell’s book The Nail: six different people reflecting on the crucifixion and their part in it – Peter, the Centurion, Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas and Mary Magdalene. Most justify their actions and pass on the blame for what they did to others. It is almost a relay of blame and a sizeable nail is passed from one to
another. Judas blames everyone and the congregation through him are made to feel their part in the hammering in of the nails. I’d had some crosses made out of old nails by a local welder and these were given to each member of the congregation at this point. Only Mary Magdalene accepts her responsibility for her part in the crucifixion, but discovers there both conviction and release: somehow by the tenacity of his loving, I am free to love again. Sulo has kindly sent this collage of photos and images from the Three Hour service.
Maundy Thursday: 24th March 2016
I find the Maundy Thursday one of the most moving services of the year: the reading from John 13 describes Jesus
making a very conscious deliberate act as he takes off his outer garment and takes a towel and proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet. Bishop James Jones, at an address at the Diocesan Synod, pointed out that this is the only occasion that Jesus takes the title ‘Lord’ for himself, that is he is very deliberately associating Lordship with humble service. There are other models that the disciples would have preferred: Peter armed with a sword when the temple guard come to arrest him is one, or James and John seeking positions of authority and power at Jesus right and left hand is another, but Jesus could not have made it plainer in his actions that he calls us to love one another in humble service. But the invitation to come forward for the footwashing still largely falls on embarrassed ears. As one person said afterwards, ‘I wanted to come, but couldn’t overcome my cultural understanding of a priest being a honoured person, who should not be doing this’.
‘But what about Jesus?’ I asked. She promised to come forward next year!
United Bible Societies and the International Book Fair
It was a pleasure to welcome a good friend, Dr Hrayr Jebejian, representing United Bible Societies at the Bahrain
International Book Fair, to the Cathedral compound with two of his regional colleagues. When he was here last, we had coffee with Daniel and this was their vision. As well as Bibles in many different languages they have brought with them an interactive computer exhibition on the Bible. On Saturday we went to visit the stall in the huge marquee erected behind the National Museum – a stunning site and met a few friends doing the same or manning other stalls. The Book Fair is continuing until 3rd April in what is a stunning setting: you have to cross a bridge to reach it and the United Bible Societies’ stall is in Row L, near the waterfront.
Stations of the Cross: Monday to Wednesday in Holy Week, 21st -23rd March 2016
Our three Readers led the three evenings following the Stations of the Cross which Jon had very imaginatively put together and to which never less than 28 people came, mostly
returning each night to continue the painful journey. The reflections and prayers made a very strong connection between the traditional Stations and contemporary concerns and events that reflect walking the path of the cross. The final station in the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid was very realistic and gave some visiting gardeners quite a shock when they came earlier in the day.