It’s time to say thank you! We have had lots of lovely comments and feedback about the Churches Together Good Friday event yesterday. Huge thanks to everyone who took part and all who helped to make it such a lovely opportunity for worship and fellowship.
What happens on Good Friday?
The walk: We all set off from our churches, in Ash and Ash Vale, walking together and carrying the cross. This reminds us of Jesus carrying his own cross, through the streets of Jerusalem, on the day of his crucifixion. Thank you to everyone who took part in this very special walk of witness.
The service: We all arrive at Ash Wharf, welcomed by the worship team, and the open air service begins. This is a very special day for us all, as we gather together churches of different denominations and remember our Saviour, Jesus, giving up His life to save all of us. The clergy share the service, taking it in turns to lead, preach, and pray each year, so it is a real team effort. We would like to thank Luke, Natalie and the team for the music and PA system, and also to thank Bridges for powering the sound system for us. We always enjoy welcoming passers by to join in too – all are welcome.
Hot Cross Buns: After the service… the fellowship! What a joy to have a sunny day for this. Everyone gathers at The Chapel on Wharf Rd for hot cross buns and a cuppa, and a lovely opportunity to chat to friends old and new. We love welcoming the whole community to this, people of all faiths and none, and what a great opportunity to enjoy the Community Garden. Thank you to the hospitality team of volunteers from all the churches, who prepared and served the drinks and hot cross buns – and for doing all the washing up! We would also like to thank Co-op for donating 100 delicious hot cross buns. It’s a great community moment in our Easter calendar.
As we contemplate the Cross and look forward to the joy of Easter, may God bless you and keep you in His love and peace. We look forward to welcoming you on Easter Sunday for the 10:30 service!
The Cover Image this Easter is inspired by a new song “Come to the Table” by Matt Weeks which you can hear most Sunday’s at St Mary’s.
If you use social media, you may enjoy the ‘anniversaries’ that pop up every now and then, reminding you of what happened on this day in previous years. My timeline recently has been full of images from our early lockdown – our first Evensong in the carpark 2 years ago, ringing the bell, pancakes on the astroturf… It makes me realise that the last time we ‘did Easter’ the ‘normal’ way was 3 years ago! We had a few socially distanced people in church in 2021, but finally this year we are allowed to gather in greater numbers and celebrate with a shared feast.
You are warmly invited to join in with local Easter events at St Mary’s on Vale Rd, and at The Chapel on Wharf Rd.
Easter is our major festival of the year when we remember the death of Jesus and celebrate him rising from the dead.
Lent is the period before Easter when Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday Neil spoke again about the opportunities to reflect together during Lent:
For our Easter 2022 issue of The Parishioner we have a poem to share with you, on the theme of the passion. This was written by Joanna Pearson, a talented poet who is also a member of Chapel Poets. We have some news from the Chapel Poetry for you too.
We had so much fun with the lost sheep trail at Half Term, we are doing another one for Easter!
Please pop an Easter Egg, Easter Scene, Easter Garden, Easter Wreath or even a knitted Easter Egg in your window or front garden in time for Easter Sunday, and leave it up for 2 weeks, so we can all enjoy finding them during the Easter Holidays. We have our Easter Trail web page ready to go, and will add all your trail locations to our list in time for Easter Day.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the link or see below for zoom details. Hosanna!
Good Friday 2nd April: Stations of the Cross & Prayer
Follow the stations of the cross trail from The Chapel on Wharf Road to St Mary’s Church on Vale Road. Arrive at St Mary’s for a socially distanced opportunity for private prayer and reflection in church. (Open 10am onwards)
Easter Sunday 4th April: Zoom Service 10am
Email email@example.com for the Zoom link or to book your seat in Church (spaces are limited) We look forward to celebrating the risen Christ!
It was just after 3pm on the 3rd April 33AD. The Roman Army Execution Detail noted that the first of the three prisoners being executed that day had just died. It was a bit of a surprise because normally a prisoner took much longer to die, but as the Detail had to remain until all the prisoners were dead it was probably more of “One down, two to go” feeling than anything else. In the meanwhile it was back to gambling to while away the hours until they could return to barracks; after all they were just Roman soldiers carrying out their orders.
The background to this? At the time the Roman Empire was busy being the Roman Empire. The Emperor Tiberius ruled in Rome and Pontius Pilate (a junior Roman Civil Servant) was the Roman charged with keeping order in the province of Judea. To keep things rosy he had cosied up to the Jewish Religious Powers and they to him, but being Pilate he had still managed to alienate others. Also in the frame was Herod Antipas (a son of Herod the Great) who was the Roman appointed Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. So far so good.
Then along came trouble, a 30odd year preacher who had gone about preaching that the Kingdom of God was close at hand had come to town. The new preacher was accompanied by a band of rustics (including ex fishers, an ex tax collector and an ex zealot), he did not rail against the Roman Authorities but preached that one should love God and love one’s neighbour as one’s self. He had upset the Religious Authorities by declaring that the Temple was a place for prayer and worship and not a place for commerce. For the Religious authorities the question of the day was how to neutralise this threat without upsetting the status quo?
Herod Antipas had incarcerated a previous troublesome preacher (and cousin to the new one), then without trial the preacher had been beheaded, his head put on a platter and presented to a young dancer who had pleased the said Herod Antipas. This option was no longer available.
The preacher was detained by the Temple Authorities and after a confrontation was handed over to the Roman Authorities. The death penalty was demanded by the Temple Authorities and to avoid trouble this was granted by Pilate, which takes us back to the start of the article.
Epilogue: Pilate was removed from office 36AD, Tiberius died 37AD, Herod was removed from office 39AD, the Temple was destroyed 70AD and that rag tag army of fishers and others (excluding the zealot) spread the teachings of the executed man until in 313AD Christianity was recognised as an acceptable religion within the Roman Empire. Now THAT is a story!
PS. The date quoted above is believed to be the most probable, by many scholars.
Does faith seem hard at the moment? In fact does life seem hard? It is often said that life is a marathon, not a sprint – and there are times in a marathon where it feels almost impossible to take the next step towards the finish. The image of a race is one that is used in Scripture to describe our journey of faith – and in today’s Bible reading, the writer acknowledges that it is an endurance race! Not only that, but Jesus has run it before us…
The writer of this letter highlights three ways in which we can be encouraged during this strange time when all is changing, but sometimes it feels as if nothing has changed. The first of these is set out immediately in v1.
We are surrounded
Whether we live on our own or with others, many have experienced the kindness, neighbourliness and a sense of community that has grown throughout this year. Coming on to our doorsteps to encourage the NHS, or to remember those whose lives have been lost, has somehow bound us together. Who, in particular, does this verse say “surrounds” us (v1)? At St Mary’s, many have known the importance of “fellowship” – that “togetherness” that we experience through the Holy Spirit in our lives – as we have continued to meet and worship, albeit remotely, through the wonderful technology of Zoom. How wonderful that our God is not limited by physical walls and distances! There are times when running a long race when it is only the encouragement of the crowds lining the road – “You can do this!” – that keeps us going. Let us not stop encouraging one another in these (hopefully) last stages of beating the pandemic.
Strip off the weight
For an endurance athlete, the balance between weight and strength is an important one, and it is essential that they are not carrying any unnecessary weight on race day that would slow them down. Whilst God does not mind what physical shape or size we are, he does want us to run this “race” of our Christian life unhindered. What are the things that might slow us down, or even “trip us up” (v1)? As we reflect on the past year, can we use the opportunity to consider what might be preventing us from living life as God intended? We may not have been out much – but are there aspects of our attitudes, relationships and behaviours that we have hidden away, but we know need to change? “Strip off every weight that slows us down” – use this time to commit to change!
Eyes on Jesus
If the challenges just mentioned seem hard, we are now told how to do it (v2) – what is the secret? All successful athletes have a trainer – the one who commits to seeing them succeed, from beginning to end. The athlete can only succeed if they follow the trainer, who will themselves have been a successful athlete who has won many races – a true “champion”. Who do these verses say is our “champion”, and what is his role (v2)? The secret is that we are not meant to run this race alone. The “crown of witnesses” (v1) can support and encourage us, but is it Jesus himself, our champion, who enables and empowers us. Note that he is both the “initiator” (some versions say “author”) and “perfecter” of our faith. We so often feel guilty that we are not trying hard enough to believe, or not trying hard enough to live the right way. The world tells us that we need to rely on our own inner resources. The Bible tells us that it is Jesus himself who, by his Holy Spirit living in us, is our inner resource. He sows the seed of faith within us, he shows us the way forward, and he gives us the strength and ability to live according to what he has shown us – to “run the race”.
We know we can trust him to do this because he has run it before us (v2b). This coming week we will remember how Jesus went to the cross (v2) and died for all our sakes (v4) in order for us to be able to live our present lives in relationship with him, free of all that slows us down (v1). We have this “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” * because this death was not the end – Easter is a celebration, not a mourning, because Jesus rose again and “is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne” (v2).
And so, this Easter, if you are tempted to “become weary and give up” (v3), “fix your eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith”!
1Great is Thy Faithfulness. Thomas Obediah Chisolm 1923
Hebrews 12: 1-4 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
As we look back over a challenging year, we are contemplating our experiences of God and faith in these times, and collecting psalms written by our church family & community, expressing our despair, fear, hope, love, and all things in between.
(You can see the Psalms already submitted on the Prayer Wall outside church.)