I have spent the last week recovering from Easter. I don’t mean that it was terrible and that I need to recover, but that presiding over the ceremonies took a lot out of me, and I am now very tired. At the risk of equating myself with the Creator, I can well understand why ‘On the seventh day he rested’ after all that creativity. This year at Easter we had a lot of creativity! (The Donkey was a thirty year first for me!) So now I need to rest.
There is also another reason that I’m tired which I remember from some ‘priestly wisdom’ that was passed down to me. An older priest said ‘It is not difficult to understand why you feel as if you have done a day’s work after Sunday Eucharist. Not only do you have to be responsible for what happens, you have to be a worshiper too, and then deal with the relationships that gather and focus on a Sunday morning. You’ve already done a day’s work after all that!’
I hoped that during Holy Week and Easter I would come closer to God. Here are some moments that became important to me. I just loved the way that we managed to do a ‘spring clean’ of the Church building. All the candle sticks look lovely, and everything looks clean. This is the value of a spring clean. So much material that ‘we might need one day’ gathers, that it is impossible to move any where else because of the baggage we carry. So a clean out and a spruce up becomes necessary. This is a metaphor for our life. We can’t become a ‘missionary congregation’ if we do not make space for the new by having a ‘clean up’. Because God is love, change is going to be, of necessity, a transformation, not a revolution. But the basic building blocks of a lively, modern liturgical Church are here. What we are doing is making space for the next generation of Christians in Territet.
I was also very touched and moved by the sermon which was delivered by Doina and Neil at the Easter Vigil, and again on Easter Day. We have been working together for nearly a year now, and I took great satisfaction from hearing them be articulate about what has happened to them over that time. This is the direction I would like to head in. I think that the new ‘norm’ for Christians is to be able to spend some time becoming educated in the faith, and being able to be articulate about what is important for them. This process not only helps the individual, but helps to bind the participants together into a group of trust and intimacy. It helps us to become more like the Body of Christ. We become as the hymn says ‘Pilgrims on a journey, companions on the road, (able) to help each other walk the mile and bear the load’. This can’t happen if we don’t know one another, or hide our ‘loads’ from one another.
The other thing that happens in such a group is that because we are becoming companions, we become less ‘consumers’ of religious goods and services and more disciples. On Easter morning, one person said ‘I couldn’t stop smiling, because of the atmosphere in the place.’ Their partner said “Well I was sort of expecting something more ‘Church of England’, meaning ‘drier’ but I love the sense of engagement with real life here.” But another person said ‘How terrible, I couldn’t sing the hymns, and there was no atmosphere! I’m not going back there’ Both of these comments are expressions of a desire for something ‘special’ for them when they come to Church. That is brilliant! But both of these comments need a place where they can we worked on and explored.
We have said that the worship on a Sunday is not only our Eucharist, but our ‘Front Door’. So I’m pleased when people find their lives touched by our welcome. But I’d love to know more about which parts of their lives were touched, and how that journey could be helped to go one step further. The other person who made negative remarks also needs to be invited into a conversation about what they need to be able to do: sing! (I agree!!!), and also to be a bit tolerant of others I should think, and to say ‘Well not every Eucharist is going to hit the spot every time! Life with God is lived over a long time span, and there are ordinary times as well as special times.’ This kind of learning only takes place if a person stops the attitude of being a customer and becomes a disciple or pilgrim.
I also had a significant moment during the Watch of the Passion. I went into the chapel to do my ‘hour’ thinking that I would write a sermon. But it came to me that this was a way of distancing myself from God, rather than watching with Christ and sharing his pain. As I said ‘It is our lives that are the sermon in Holy Week’. So I didn’t do a sermon for Good Friday. That was a nudge from God to me: ‘Hey Paul, it is not enough to be able to talk about me, I want you close to me.’
I was moved too during the ‘Great Intercession’ on Good Friday. Normally I am praying these prayers, and so I have to manage that thing of praying myself, while leading the prayers. But on Good Friday, when Fr. Andrew was leading the Great Intercession, I could forget about reading and really let myself be drawn into the spirit of prayer. That touched me too as a new thing for this holy Week.
Last, I always love the ‘Holy Noise’ on Easter Eve. It is such a break into the solemnity of the worship with banging and ringing of bells and the blowing of trumpets. Such a moment of lively silliness! Brilliant! I look forward to it every year, especially since it comes just before the singing of the Gloria, which we have not done since before Lent.