Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Invitation to the Easter Liturgy

On Easter Sunday, 4th April, at 5.30am in All Saints Church, we celebrate the Easter Liturgy. This Involves:

The Lighting of the New Fire, the Blessing of the Paschal Candle, the Vigil of Readings, the ‘Sounding’ before the Gloria (please bring rattles, bells etc.),
the Renewal of Baptism and the first Holy Communion of Easter.

and is followed by the Easter Breakfast at about 7am.

The Easter Vigil is the most important Mass of the Church’s year, and the first celebration of the Eucharist during the fifty-day long celebration of Easter, the Queen of Seasons. It is this service to which every other Eucharist points during the year.

We gather as dawn breaks, in the cloisters at All Saints, where a bonfire, the Easter fire is blessed by the celebrant. This new fire symbolizes the radiance of the Risen Christ dispelling the darkness of sin and death. The Paschal Candle is then marked, blessed and lit. This Paschal Candle will be used throughout the Season of Easter, remaining by the altar, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding us of Christ, who is light and life.

Once the Candle has been lit, it is carried by a deacon into the Church, itself in complete darkness, stopping three times to chant an acclamation, ‘The Light of Christ', to which the people respond 'Thanks be to God'. As the candle proceeds through the Church, all present (i.e. those who have received the ‘Light of Christ’) light candles, from the light of the Paschal Candle. As this symbolic ‘Light of Christ’ spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is diminished.

Once the Candle has been placed on its stand in the sanctuary, a deacon proclaims the Exsultet (the Easter Proclamation), after which we listen to a Vigil of Bible Readings, tracing our story, from Creation, to Exodus and Resurrection. The Gloria and Alleluia, from which we have refrained during Lent, are both joyfully restored to our Worship, before we process to the Font, singing the Litany of Saints, remembering our Christian family in heaven. Baptismal Vows are then renewed, for which we have been preparing during Lent, before the first Holy Communion of Easter. The Dismissal is accompanied by the lighting of a Paschal Candle for St Mary’s, so the Light of Christ can be proclaimed throughout our Parish.

It is both my privilege and my joy, to invite you to be present at this Service, which is for the whole Parish. In word and silence, in song and acclamation, in shared action and the gifts of God himself, we celebrate Christ, who has burst through the deep waters of death for us. It is to the death of Christ and his Resurrection, proclaimed in this dawn Liturgy, that all our worship looks, as it proceeds on Easter Morning, and throughout the Easter season. For this is the Queen of Seasons, as we reflect on the Resurrection appearances of Christ in the Gospel, and as we move towards the Festivals of the Ascension and Pentecost.

As our Lenten pilgrimage draws near its goal, may the Lord strengthen us, that we may stand with hope at the Foot of the Cross, and with wonder and joy with Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. May we celebrate with love the joyful 50 days of Easter, the Great Sunday.

Grant, Lord, that we who are baptized into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits,
who died and was buried and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Your friend and priest,
Father David

Friday, 26 March 2010

Our Lady of Sorrows

The 4th Station: All Saints, Elland

On this Friday of Passion Week a commemoration is made of Our Lady of Sorrows. May she pray for us, that we may follow her Son on the way to Calvary.

Sometimes this version of the Hail Mary is used:

Hail Mary, full of sorrow, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of compassion, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The 13th Station: All Saints, Elland

Lord Jesus Christ,
when you were raised upon the cross,
your mother Mary stood beside you in your passion:
may your Church, as it shares in your suffering and death,
come to share more deeply in your risen life;
for, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
you are alive and reign,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Our Lady of Elland (St Mary's)

The 4th Sunday in Lent is known by various titles; Refreshment Sunday, Laetare Sunday or Mothering Sunday. It marks a mid-point in the season of Lent, when fasting rules and Lenten disciplines are relaxed, so we can be refreshed when we take them up again on Monday. Words traditionally used in the Liturgy today, from the prophet Isaiah, encourage us to rejoice:

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her, says the Lord

We give thanks for our Holy Mother, the Church, and the spiritual Jerusalem; for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; for all mothers, and for all who care for children. The flowers offered to us are gifts from our Mother, the Church.

Our Lady of Elland (All Saints)

The Christian tradition for today is therefore much richer and more inclusive than the commercial Mothers’ Day; today we pray also for those whose experience of motherhood is difficult, or for families and relationships that are broken or estranged. Our life in community as Christians reminds us that we are all children of one Heavenly Creator, the God and Father of us all.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Bishop Edward King

Only one place to be today. Lincoln, to mark 100 years since the heavenly birthday of Bishop Edward King. He has been described as 'the fragrant flower of the Oxford Movement', the renewal of catholic understanding within the Church in the 19th century. When I first went to the Diocese of Lincoln nearly a quarter of a Century ago, there were still one or two around who had been confirmed by him, and at the time, he was the 'newest' of the Saints in the Church's Kalendar. A number of us for whom priestly formation took place at the much missed Lincoln Theological College (never thought I'd write that!)found it almost inevitable that we should fall under his spell - and it is good to revisit his vision, courtesy, and sheer love of his Lord and his people

Archbishop Rowan has been in Lincoln to mark the Centenary, and it is difficult to find a better understanding of what Bishop Kng still means than this:

The Archbishop talks to Crosslincs (Diocese of Lincoln newspaper) about the legacy of Bishop Edward King.

While many Bishops of Lincoln have passed out of people's memories, just a few of the 71 bishops who have held the post remain firmly in the memories and observances of the Church of England.

But it is Edward King − perhaps even more than St Hugh − who remains steadfastly in the minds of the Church, particularly for his extraordinary capacity for pastoral energy and dedication.

So 100 years after his death, the Diocese of Lincoln will be honoured by an extended visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, who strongly believes that it is necessary to honour Edward King.

"Edward King reinvented two things in the 19th century," said the Archbishop.
"He reinvented pastoral theology − the whole science of training a clergy which was competent pastorally and humanly; clergy who had a sort of professionalism in care.

"And he reinvented what a diocesan bishop could be and do, I think, in terms of accessibility, concern for the poorest − not something that other 19th century bishops had ignored, but certainly something that he brought to the fore in a quite fresh way. I think that in both of the those ways he contributed enormously to what we now absolutely take for granted about the role of a priest and a bishop.

On his invitation from Gladstone to be Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King wrote to a friend: "I am glad it is John Wesley's diocese. I shall try to be the Bishop of the Poor. If I can feel that I think I shall be happy."

The Church has, of course, changed greatly from King's day, and I asked the Archbishop whether his legacy was still relevant, given the world we live in, or consigned to history.

"The Church has changed enormously, of course, but I hope it hasn't changed in those two respects," said the Archbishop. "I hope that it hasn't changed in taking absolutely seriously the need to have clergy who are deeply trained in prayer, in thinking and in the disciplines of caring for people. And I hope that we still believe that bishops ought to be that sort of person, that sort of apostolic, person-related character who can speak for those who are disadvantaged, who can uphold a really compelling vision of what the Church might be and what God's love is."

Edward King famously befriended and converted condemned prisoners in Lincoln Prison. In 1887 he heard about a young fisherman from Grimsby who had killed his girlfriend. The chaplain at the prison was having great difficulty in relating to the condemned man, and King intervened. He taught the prisoner about the "unseen realities of life and death, sin and forgiveness, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son." The young man was reportedly deeply moved, and was confirmed. Bishop King received his confession, and applied − unsuccessfully − to the Home Secretary to have the capital sentence commuted. King accompanied the prisoner to the scaffold, and sustained him with "strong prayers" until the trapdoor was opened. It would, however, be hard to imagine a diocesan bishop today being able to devote so much time to individual causes.

"I think it's certainly a job with different pressures," said the Archbishop.
"I should be very, very sad if I thought that the job as it is now has made it impossible for bishops to be that sort of person. I think we would have lost something absolutely essential to the nature of being a bishop. A bishop is not somebody who is separated from clergy by a whole load of administrative responsibilities. A bishop is a priest who has a certain number of extra symbolic, co-ordinating functions, but remains fundamentally a pastor in the Church."

In 1890 Edward King was tried before Archbishop Edward Benson for ritual practices, after a churchwarden from Cleethorpes witnessed the bishop celebrate the Eucharist at St Peter at Gowts Church in Lincoln. The Bishop faced eastwards away from the congregation, and at the Offertory he mixed water with the wine. At the absolution and the concluding blessing the Bishop faced the congregation and made the sign of the cross with upraised hand − all of which became usual practice within a few years.

J Hanchard's Sketch of the Life of Bishop King, with portrait lists what those opposed to his appointment felt: "By his continued connection with the English Church Union, we have the link which connects him with the Ultra-Ritualistic faction. From the approbation his Lordship has bestowed upon persistent law-breakers, we cannot feel any confidence that he will exercise his authority to stem the tide of unreasoning sacerdotalism. By the work he maintained at Cuddesdon; by his apparently sincere regard for Romish playthings; by the display of gaudy gew-gaws at his enthronement; and by his self-conscious vanity in sitting to be 'taken' for the admiration of 'the faithful' without even having sacrificed his whiskers to the Catholic razor, he is unquestionably assisting in 'digging the grave of the Establishment.'"

Dr Williams believes that the trial was an embarrassment to the Church, and only served to strengthen the affection with which Edward King was held.

"I think that after the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 there was a growing sense that the attempt to impose conformity on Church worship by the laws of Parliament was actually making both the Church and the state look rather silly," said the Archbishop. "King's trial brought that to a head, in a sense. Here was one of the holiest, most learned, most pastorally engaged, most involved bishops in the Church of England going through a ridiculous process, which everybody was embarrassed about. 

"Archbishop Benson was clearly embarrassed about it, and I think that general embarrassment did teach Church and State something about the need to give the Church a little bit of room to work out its own disciplines on its own terms about worship, and to catch up with the flexibility and changes in worship practices that were going on on the ground."

The Archbishop said that there would always be a temptation for the Church to try and over-regulate worship. "We rightly believe that there are standards for public worship and that there are things that we have got to have in common and say in common and do in common," he said. "You can't just make it up as you go along. At the same time, what really speaks to people and transforms people and deepens their faith will change from one context to another.

"The Church of England learned that the hard way in the late 19th century by this series of rather daft experiments in control. King's trial, in a sense, showed the absurdity of it."

A century after King's death, the Church of England is a very different organisation, and I asked the Archbishop what he thought King would have felt about its development. "I think he would be amazed at the amount of paperwork and regulation that we've created for ourselves and that we've created in response to Government pressure," he said. "And I think he would be disappointed that we were focussed so much on rather short-term goals.

"King was a deep man, and he believed that clergy ought to have depth; that they ought to have the kind of training that allowed them to go deep in their own faith, and the resources of the tradition, and of the Bible, and I think he would have said that we're very much at risk of crowding that out, of creating people who are problem-solvers rather than thinkers and reflectors. "He would have said, in the words of somebody else, it's not High Church and Low Church that matter, it's deep Church."

Times change, and the Church in 2110 may not bear much resemblance to today's Church of England, but the Archbishop is certain that Bishop King will still provide an example in another 100 years.

"I hope that in 100 years' time the Church will still remember him with gratitude, and will remember how it was possible − even in a very stratified Victorian society − for somebody in his privileged position to be a trusted spokesman for the railway workers and the brick-makers, and all the people at the bottom of the heap in society," said the Archbishop. "I hope the Church will still think that that is part of what a bishop ought to do, and that the Church will still be working for the kind of depth and the kind of groundedness in spiritual integrity that belonged to Bishop King."

Friday, 5 March 2010

Images from his work 'Gethsemane', by my colleague and our Parish Deacon, Father Matthew Askey, currently on display in the All Souls' Chapel in All Saints Church.

Matthew writes, on his website: Utopia Park,

Gethsemane is conceived as a series of prayer meditations that make up a continuous narrative when seen as a whole, it is similar in structure to the Stations of the Cross. This series brings before us the events of Maundy Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane; the turning point in Jesus’ ministry and the start of his Passion.

It is a key moment for Christians, the point where Jesus prays that God’s will be done and where he hands himself over to the officers, trusting that this is what is needed for him to realise his mission. Gethsemane is an intensely prayerful evening where Jesus shows what is needed (prayer) and where the disciples fail to rise to the challenge and sleep through the agony Jesus is experiencing as he humbles himself and confirms his destiny.

We are invited to take up this prayer in God’s eternity and join Jesus in the garden as he prays for all he holds dear, the future of his friends and the peace of mankind.