Resurrection – made it to Easter

If I thought last Lent and holy Week was stressful, I was wrong.  Last Easter was my first in parish as a Deacon – this year it’s second time around, and I’m a priest.  And my Training Incumbent had asked me to rethink Holy Week events right across the Benefice.

With three very different parishes, one of my concerns was that there should be something for everyone.  One parish had a daily service during Holy Week, one did the Litany on Good Friday, one had a quiet hour on Good Friday and a Vigil with renewal of Baptism Vows on Holy Saturday.  Something my Training Incumbent said last year has stayed with me – “Christmas is one story, and the people tell that, with or without clergy.  But Easter is many stories and they are mostly told by the clergy.”  In other words, Christmas services may require a collared presence, but Easter tends to require far more clergy input.  And rethinking Holy Week proved him right.

I ended up planning a Stations of the Cross over three nights and three churches, a Maundy Thursday Agape and informal Eucharist followed by Tenebrae.  Everything else happened as before, but not necessarily in the same parish.  I’d like to say I sat back and waited to see what would happen, but even though others led various services, I was very conscious that this was “my” plan (yes, I’d prayed about it, consulted, and taken it to three PCC’s for consent!).

Above all I wanted to tell the stories of Easter in as many ways as possible, and thanks to the imagination of my colleagues we did just that.  We used silence, art, sculpture, dramatisation, light and darkness, music and words.  We used well loved spaces in different ways.  And we found a core of people who journeyed through Holy Week with us – not the same ones as previous years, a different constituency.  We’ve had a lot of very positive feedback about the services we held.

But I still want to find out – what motivates people to come?  Why would people turn up for a Eucharist, but ignore a meditative service in the same church at the same time?  Or indeed vice versa?  What drives people to get up in time for a 5.30 am service?  Why was a formal Eucharist fine, but an informal one not fine for some, but wonderful for others?  And more than anything, how do we involve as many people as possible in Holy Week events, without causing clergy collapse?

(Yes, I nursed a cold through Holy Week, and yes I have spent much of my week off in bed recovering, and I am confident I am not the only one!)

How do we tell the stories in as many ways as possible to the most number of people?


4 responses to “Resurrection – made it to Easter

  1. Our Stations of the Cross at St Andrew's was, I thought, a bit risky; the vicar said “Right, there are fourteen stations, I'd like fourteen people to each sign up for one.” We were given the readings (if applicable) and told to provide some sort of reflection on the station, something that was meaningful to us.

    I was really worried that it would end up being too short, too long, too dismissive or too rambling. Organists think about this stuff too! But it was actually just right, and worked very well. And all the vicar had to do was say a prayer at the beginning and end, and “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you” after each Station. It was much better-attended than the Stations in previous years.

    So maybe part of the way to get people to come, and to lessen clergy energy expenditure, is to guide people to tell part of the story themselves…

  2. It sounds wonderful, and holy, and stimulating, and God-filled, and energising! Your lucky parishioners… and lucky colleagues as well, since it sounds as if you have the knack of drawing out the best that they can give.

    But there is a reason this Sunday is called Low Sunday and that is that, as you say, clergy all over the country are spiritually exhausted. Hardly surprising, when you think of all that has preceded it since Ash Wednesday. I am tired myself, and I have only been trying to run an online Lent house group for 7 weeks (Tom Wright's 'Lent' for this purpose continues up to Easter Saturday). So I hope you have lined up someone else to officiate this Sunday and you will be able to ponder on the words of Ecclesiastes (to every thing there is a season…).

  3. I was worried that 4 stations per night for 3 nights would be too long, but it enabled reflection and a slower pace. Not sure I'd advocate it every year! Agree that the more people who are involved in the telling, the better for all concerned. I think this year I felt the residual responsibility although I was only running three services during Holy Week.

    Low Sunday is a break of sorts – I have had all week off, but to enable TI time off, have four services on Sunday – but no preaching. Three HC, one baptism, so I should be done (in??) by 3pm. Then back to work again, but have a Sunday off at end of April.

  4. Hope the lurgy gets better. We know how you feel. Four churches, 14 services in 8 days and just the two of us so we went to Spring Harvest exhausted but at least we had today off. Next year we shall be rethinking our Easter services. Who said House for Duty was a the equivalent of a Sunday plus two days. LOL

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