Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday Reflection on Holy Week and Easter Services

It's my intention when I return to parish ministry, to ensure that there are services every day of Holy Week. Not all Anglican parishes do this - and there is not necessarily a strong tradition of such in a 'low' diocese such as Nelson Diocese. (On hearsay, a few parishes have had daily services during this past week).

Incidentally, alarmingly, some parishes are not offering a Maundy Thursday commemoration of the last supper (in some form or another). The bare Anglican minimum for Holy Week is Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, then, of course, Easter Sunday services.

Why might one take on such extra services? One reason is that the gospels themselves devote a large portion of their accounts to the last week of Jesus' pre-resurrection life. All four gospels are alike in this regard. With daily services we can journey together with the aid of the gospels through this significant week.

I have a theory that such services need not be a huge amount of extra work.

Daily services, Monday - Wednesday, need not have a sermon. Even Thursday evening could be sermon free, though I would work on some manner of enabling good reflection time by the congregation (that is, Monday to Wednesday services, during the working week, might be short, say, 5.15 pm- 5.45 pm, or 7.00am or pm-7.30 am or pm; but Thursday evening offers the possibility of a longer format). If it comes to that Good Friday services (whether of the family friendly kind or of the quiet reflective type) do not require a sermon but could work with readings, prayers, and reflection sourced from a resource already published. A service on Holy Saturday could be a simple service of readings and prayers anticipating the great celebration the next morning rather than a 'full Vigil' (i.e. with many readings, fire, and eucharist).

It can be different, and I have experienced the difference! On two successive Maundy Thursday's, for instance, I took part in logistically demanding services. The first was a service full of candles, special music, etc, which involved a large amount of time and energy in preparation, and left the main organisers somewhat exhausted for the remainder of Easter. The next year a 'Passover Meal' approach was taken. (Very nice it was too). Wonderful as such events are, and worth doing when people resources are available, they should not put off a new commitment to daily services through Holy Week since a simple, bare programme of services is possible.

In my mind, also, in this day when few parishes offer evening services, I am reminded that the evening of Easter Day is also an important time in our calendar: Jesus celebrated his first Bible Study and Communion following his resurrection (Luke 24)!

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