I walked to the Eucharist at St John's this morning, picking up fourteen piece of litter on the way there, and dumping the bag in a litter bin outside Tesco's, nearly making myself late, as this move invovled a diversion. I went not because I'd been asked to officiate, but to take the opportunity to join worship as a member of the congregation, as Fr Phelim was celebrating. There were twice the number of people present compared to the usual Thursday service, which was good, and afterwards Fr Phelim and I were able to talk about his plans for the coming month, his final one in Canton Benefice.
I spent a quiet afternoon at home, preparing a sermon for the evening Mass, and drove St St German's for a half past seven start. There were twenty six of us, including a full serving team of five. The sun had set by the time we came to the Lord's Supper, and this encouraged me to slow down and recite the Eucharistic prayer more reflectively and slowly than usual. I hope people didn't mind. I noticed that the congregation still said the Lord's Prayer at the habitual brisk pace. It's not easy for a whole community to slow down together and think about the words. Maybe it takes years. I know how quickly I can speed up on some occasions.
The Lady Chapel was bedecked with greenery and flowers for the Vigil which followed. A friend of Fr Roy's who is a trainee florist had volunteered to do floral arrangements to cover the Triduum, and had paid for them as well. They looked magnificent, and will look great in the sunlight on Easter morning - please let there be sunlight, lots of it! After the singing of Pange Lingua during the procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose, I said a few appropriate devotional interspersed with Taize chants, which it seems quite a few members of the congregation are familiar with, though not all, as it ever was.
I discovered that I was redundant when it came to the stripping of the altars. The servers just got on and did it with quiet devout efficiency, and summoned me discretely to join them for the concluding closure of the doors of the high altar reredos, prodding them doors shut using a long up-ended candle snuffer. I cannot ever remember a Maundy Thursday when I haven't been obliged to give the lead in stripping the altars, or do it all myself. The history of sacred team work in St German's goes back many decades, and makes it so easy, indeed luxurious for any priest to work with. It's something I remember when I work, so often nearly on my own when I'm abroad.
Home, the relax for an hour with a TV programme, then start on a Good Friday sermon for the Liturgy of the Passion tomorrow afternoon. Thankfully it came together easily, though I would have preferred to finish and go to bed earlier.