On Sunday, Bishop Christopher recorded the Stations of the Cross in the garden at Bishop's House. The Stations were those that we used on the Curates' Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year and, as we journey through Holy Week now, I am transported (in mind and soul, though not in body) back to that Pilgrimage.
We walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, through the streets of Jerusalem stopping at each of fourteen stations. The image above was taken at the second station and the words inscribed on the chapel wall read "He released Barabbas"... and it was where I first cried. The stark reality of Jesus' journey to the cross struck me in a way that it hadn't before. And as the words of the African American spiritual song, "Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble..." were sung, I did indeed tremble. That trembling is something I hope I never lose when I reflect on the Stations of the Cross, on that narrative which ends in Jesus' death and burial.
I walked the Way of the Cross with others - curates, clergy responsible for our formation as we trained for and now set out in ordained ministry, and Bishop Christopher and his chaplain - the people I was sharing the pilgrimage with. But we were also joined, for some of our journey that day, by people who we did not know - a man with a backpack, a woman with a white headscarf who walked behind the cross for a while. Looking back now it reminds me that, although St John's community are in our own homes during this Holy Week, we are joined with each other in our journey and are also united with Christians throughout the world, people who we do not know, in that journey. Some of them will join us on our Zoom screens, if only for a short time, and some of them will remain unseen and unknown by us.
This week, as we share in the Stations of the Cross; commemorate the Last Supper and Jesus' praying, betrayal and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane; witness his crucifixion, death and burial and then the darkness and waiting of Holy Saturday, I know that I will once again be deeply moved. There are times when we enter 'thin places', those places where heaven and earth seem to come within touching distance. For me, Holy Week is a 'thin place'. But it is one where it is not God in heaven, reigning in glory, who is in touching distance. Rather, it is God on earth, God as man: scourged, beaten, humiliated, condemned to death, crucified, dead and buried. It is God in the absolute rawness of human experience who is within touching distance. And 'Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble...'.
You can find details of all of our Holy Week services here, including links to our service sheets and to the Zoom codes. Today and tomorrow, we will have Stations of the Cross followed by a Eucharist and on Thursday, we'll be having a Eucharist with the symbolic washing of feet. On Thursday, it would be wonderful if you could join us in the symbolic foot washing - there are a number of ways you can do this:
- wash the feet of someone in your household at that point in the service;
- bring a figure (e.g. a nativity figure, a figurine, a doll, etc) and wash its feet;
- take a photograph of your own feet or find an image of feet on Google and hold it up during the foot washing.
- draw around your feet and hold them up during the foot washing.
On Thursday, we would usually have the Watch in the Garden of Repose. We won't be doing that on Zoom! But we invite you to create your own Garden of Gethsemane. After the service, you might like to place a symbol of Jesus in it - a figure or a piece of bread... You may like to spend some time in quiet reflection or prayer there.
As our web page says, on Friday, we'll be having a virtual Walk of Witness at 11.00am and a service at 2.00pm (this is a change of time, if you're used to the usual 1.30 start time). At 2.00pm, please do bring a stone or two to use during our prayers.
With love and prayers as we journey through Holy Week together,
7th April 2020