In April, Holy Week began with Palm Sunday services, when we waved palm crosses marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry. This was followed, two days later, by a reflective Taize style service at Orsett Church with some beautiful flute and keyboard accompaniment and, during which, people had the opportunity to light a candle. On Maundy Thursday, at Horndon Church, we held a foot washing Eucharist, to reflect upon the humility of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and to remember the last supper Jesus shared with his friends before he was crucified. On Good Friday, we congregated at Bulphan and people elected, either to go on a Walk of Witness around the village as we shared Bible readings, prayers, reflections and songs, or to follow the Stations of the Cross – the powerful and moving journey of Christ to his crucifixion, superbly illustrated by Revd Max Blake. And Holy Week culminated, on Easter Sunday, with a service at Bulphan when we gathered together as a united church family to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. At this service 8 young people received the sacraments, the bread and wine, for the first time and it was a joy to prepare these children for this. Thank you, so much, to all those who helped in any way during Holy Week, both to arrange the services and to provide and arrange flowers, food and refreshment; none of this could have happened without you.
At the same time as preparing the children for taking their first communion, Youth HUB, our Benefice youth group have been doing Youth Alpha, a Christianity course, with Hannah our student from Ridley Hall Theological College, and I have been exploring confirmation with a group of adults using a course called the ‘Start’ course. The Start Course, in six sessions, looks at: Our own life journeys so far; Discussions about the evidence for God’s existence; The person of Jesus; What’s gone wrong in the world; Jesus death and resurrection; Taking steps into the arms of Christ’s love. It has been a real privilege to be able to engage with people in all of these groups as they have shared stories and questions, and as we have journeyed together.
At the heart of any Christian nurture course is a desire to lead people to a greater understanding of God’s love for them, demonstrated by Christ’s death and resurrection, and of what following Christ means for each of us today. Christ came into the world for us all. He longs for each of us to be in relationship with him. He welcomes everyone, whatever their background, to journey with him. In Coventry Cathedral, in the front of many of their service books they have the following words:
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down at heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.
We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like ‘organised religion.’
We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as kids or got lost on the ring road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters… and you!
And I believe these words reflect the Jesus Christ of Easter.
With love and prayers,