Friday, 25 March 2016

Christ's Passion recalled

Out of the house by nine, driving to St German's for Stations of the Cross at ten. How good that the sun should shine to raise our spirits as we went about our penitential journey. There were twenty one of us. After each Station, the shutters enclosing each image were shut, the last act of preparation for the Liturgy of the Passion, following the stripping of the altars. Although small, I found it a surprisingly powerful gesture, narrowing the focus so that only the Gospel story in its fullness could be attended to. 

Afterwards, a drink and hot cross buns were provided in the church hall. For Hamid, all this was a first time experience, and he seemed to be absorbing it all thoughtfully. I joked with him that if another judge should ask for evidence of his British churchgoing, he need only mention hot cross buns after church on Good Friday. 

I then needed to prepare an address for the afternoon Liturgy of the Passion. There was so much traffic congestion on the drive home, I decided to use the bus to town and walk the second leg of the journey to ensure I wasn't delayed arriving for the second service at three.  It wasn't as bad later when made the return trip. The earlier rush may have been shoppers headed for city centre car parks. The surrounding infrastructure doesn't cope well with peak demand. Everyone suffers from a surge of shoppers, city centre workers or sports fans going to a match. The combination can be toxic. Tomorrow there's an half-marathon in town, an affair the City Council's Events Team has been preparing for in recent weeks. They occupy another section of our office premises, so it's hard not to notice.

There were seventeen of us for the Liturgy of the Passion at three. There was little time to brief each other about the service in detail. The serving team and I had to rely on each others' long experience to get us through in the restrained and dignified manner required by the occasion. 

For the first time in decades I didn't have copies of the Church in Wales Holy Week service book, devised in the early 1970s by the Liturgical Commission, and still useful, because it has texts of St Matthew's and St John's Passion scripted for voices and congregation. An adaptation of an ancient and traditional format, this made it possible to have a participatory congregational version of the Passion reading available for us with the minimum of effort every year. 

Without this resource, I had to sit down for half an hour and concentrate in order to render three large print copies into scripts using underlining only. It's too important an opportunity to disregard in my opinion. And, I must say, the readers made a good job of it. I led three hymns, singing unaccompanied, and this went well. In the afternoon sunshine, the church, emptied of worshippers, stripped of all its finery, reredos closed, images shrouded, looked austerely magnificent. Just waiting for what comes next.

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