I hope you are well. Sorry we didn't send an email yesterday - I was trying to have a day off (which sort of worked). But, at the end of this week, I want to say thank you to all who have been in touch with one another and with me or Lisa. We are offering support to one another in all sorts of ways, through our various online methods - not least the pub with its excellent landlords Scott and Lisa Bewick - through phoning, and through providing practical help. There is a great deal of love and care around and I am very glad that the people of St John's community are able to contribute. Please do let me know if you are aware of anyone who has a particular need for help. Many people have asked me how the members of the congregation who aren't online are doing. I think we are in touch with them all, and thank you to all who are doing this too.
Please continue to pray for all who are working in the health service and other essential services: Maria, Andy, Josephine, Deborah, all the chaplains and medical staff at Guy's and St Thomas' and the Lambeth Hospital - and for those who aren't well, especially Joyce, the wife of Michaiah our organist who is recovering from Covid-19 and Ulrike who is also recovering, but slowly.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Holy Week begins! We will have an Iona service of prayer at 9 a.m. (service sheet here) and a full Eucharist at 10.30 a.m. (service sheet here).
You are invited to create a Palm Cross on your Palm - see Lisa's email for how to do this - or bring a Palm Cross which you may still have from last year. I have taken a video of the walk from St Andrew's to St John's which I am hoping we will be able to watch as we virtually process. At the end of the service we will have a chance to see the Palm Trees you have been making, I hope - a great use for finished loo rolls!
The rest of Holy Week will proceed as usual (extraordinary how quickly things become normal). On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there will be virtual Stations of the Cross at 6pm followed by a Eucharist. If you have never been to Stations before, now is your chance. We walk alongside Jesus in his final journey and it will be very moving, I think, this year, as we have to use our imaginations even more than usual.
I will tell you more about the Triduum - Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday - later in the week.
This time last year we were welcoming Extinction Rebellion into the church as they blocked Waterloo Bridge. Remember that? It feels like a century ago. We had an extraordinary Holy Week last year - I found The Times article wherein I compared the climate protesters to Jesus. But this one promises to be even stranger. Here is a blog I have written for the website Via Media - into the dark wherein I reflect on the strange combination of adrenaline and darkness which I think many of us are experiencing at the moment.
There is a flood of new online resources for Holy Week and we will put some of them on our website. The first resource is the Cantata written by Michaiah.
But perhaps the most important thing, this week, is that we all take time and allow space to hold the pain and darkness of the world in our hearts and prayers. The surreal nature of this crisis increases daily: yesterday I cut the grass in the churchyard, feeling very normal, while all around us the death rate increases. In that first Holy Week in Jerusalem a troublesome preacher was arrested and executed, but life went on in the rest of the city. For some of us, the effect of the virus is to create isolation either alone or with our families, and the stress related to that: others are working in places of great risk: and others are very unwell or dying.
I can't begin to know how Holy Week will work out, but I am glad to be sharing it with you as we pray and live and work together.
So this comes with very much love, as ever, and my gratitude for your companionship. The word 'companion' comes from a root which means 'to break bread with'. We will be breaking spiritual bread together as we live through the final days of Jesus' life. I look forward to sharing it with you.