‘Village religion’ is how one priest-friend describes the worship in the village where I live. It’s true, it is common to many village churches I visit to preach or preside in. It doesn’t just describe the liturgy or the rite, or the way it is performed but also the relationships, the community, the sense of being together in a particular way. A church that belongs to everybody even those who don’t attend very often. A place full of collective memory and simple welcome. Our village churches are ‘inclusive’ in ways that many city churches can only dream of. There is certainly no room for ‘churchmanship’ or partisanship in any way. It is a very beautiful way of being Anglican. A Sunday when I am presiding and preaching in our 14th century church, visible from the garden is a total joy.
For the last two weeks in this village and the villages around, all part of the same benefice, have been worshipping together on Zoom. I was sceptical about how it would work, and how many people would be able to access this strange new technology. In fact on Easter Day 41 computers were logged in and most had more than one person viewing them. I put together and led the liturgy, a simple liturgy of the word (see below). Our vicar preached a short and powerful sermon, a house for duty priest in the parish led the intercessions. We will swap those roles around over the coming weeks. The liturgy was designed to be familiar. Hymns we know well (played via Spotify playlist) and familiar texts. The most daring liturgical creativity is an ee cummings poem I put at the start.
There was nothing remarkable about what was happening other than that these times are entirely remarkable. For me it had a lovely ‘village religion’ feel to it. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces, not people I know well, but people who belong, have belonged here longer than I have. In ‘unprecedented’ times, when all seems made strange, familiarity was just what we all needed. I’ll take ‘village religion’ any time.
There is such intensity about Lenten observance and particularly about Holy Week and the Triduum that it is possible to mis the great eight days, the Easter Octave that follows. The liturgy which has seen such variety for three days suddenly becomes very repetitive. Partly that’s necessary, and the first simple celebration of the Eucharist on Easter Monday is a necessary tonic after the rich diet of the preceding week.
This year in our isolation I am going to be meditating on some of my ‘heroes and heroines’ in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the first time on Sunday morning before dawn I was able to read all nine readings at the Paschal Vigil, slowly and with plenty of time for reflection between them, I did this by a fire in the garden as pictured. I found it profoundly moving. From Common Worship: Times and Seasons I chose the ‘Women in Salvation’ series. Given that women are under-represented in our lectionaries I would value doing that every year. I used the Anselm canticle (from Common Worship Daily Prayer) with the ‘mother reading’ from Isaiah 66 and found that especially moving.
I am not going to reflect simply on women this Easter week but on a variety of figures:
Monday – Isaac
Tuesday – Sarah
Wednesday – Ruth
Thursday – Nehemiah
Friday – Deborah
I will Livestream these meditations each day 6:30 – 7pm BST and they will consist of poems and prayers with short reflections in the way of a monologue with the character by me, one sung responsorial text and silence. At 7pm I will sing Compline, in English in this version:
Here is the slightly revised liturgy for the Vigil. The two differences to the earlier version is that the whole of the text of the Exultet is used. I just couldn’t bear to omit it. I have put it in as a responsorial text with an offering of incense refrain, this is slightly odd but I know the refrains nd tone well so will be able to sing it while censing the candle and the icons. I have also added a tone and refrain for the Collects after each of the nine readings and psalms/canticles of the Vigil.
What is very obvious from live streaming liturgies in a small space and using a fixed camera is the difficulty of liturgical action. Without any action it is really just audio, but the action is difficult to capture without camera movement.
Anyway, here is my attempt at a liturgy for Good Friday in this strange year. In the absence of the action of the veneration of the cross I am using the poem After the Seven Last Words by poet Mark Strand. I think it is a rather stunning meditation. I shall intersperse the readings with Responsorial psalms and end with the Beatitudes. I will be interested to see how it works. It may be a bit rich for Good Friday – losing the starkness of the liturgy.
I shall use the Grail Psalms for all but the final Psalm (Ps 22) which will be from the BCP and sung to a traditional plainsong tone.
I would have liked to use some recorded music. I thought Hania Rani‘s Esja would work really well. But then I would be adding the action of turning on the music etc which would spoil my own engagement with the worship and also probably break Facebook’s copyright rules.
Monday in Holy Week is the day when the Diocese of Liverpool gathers at the Cathedral for the blessing of oils and the Renewal of Commitment to Ministry. In this time of pandemic the diocesan communications team prepared a video service. The Bishop of Warrington, The Rt. Rev’d. Bev Mason, offered a reflection on the powerful gospel reading John 12:1-11. It is a profound and deep meditation that moved me greatly. I am grateful to Bishop Bev for allowing me to post her words below. You can watch the service here:
In our reading, Jesus is back in Bethany. It’s after the raising of Lazarus so you can imagine his celebrity status there, and the cult following he’s attracting. It’s also just 6 days before the crucifixion, and he’s having dinner with Lazarus and his friends.
Wouldn’t you have just loved to have been there, listening and participating in the conversations. Undoubtedly, he was preparing them, as well as himself, for his formal entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah. (We’d have celebrated this, from our places of confinement, yesterday on Palm Sunday).
Well! Suddenly the conversations are interrupted by Mary – she’ the one, remember, who would sit with the disciples at Jesus’ feet as they’re being apprenticed. I don’t know that anyone would’ve noticed her getting up …. But they’d certainly have noticed what happened next! She quietly fetches some nard oil … she goes back to Jesus, she kneels down and she pours the oil over His feet.
Now Nard was an exotic oil – it comes from the Himalayas and so imagine how costly this was. And she doesn’t just take a few drops – she takes a pound of Nard. She gently massages it into his feet. And then letting down her hair, she wipes his feet with it.
It’s so intimate, that it almost feels intrusive that anyone else should be present: In this most tender and beautiful expression of love, the oil is soaked up from one body to the other … and the aroma of love, fills the room.
Usually when hear of incense and aroma in the Bible, they’re associated with priestly offerings and sacrifice. Mary would have known this – as I’m sure, she’d have known the teaching from Hosea, where God says,
“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. ESV Hos 6.6
In this ritual Mary is participating in Jesus’ death.
I wonder if she knows that in doing so, she’s participating, too, in his risen life.
Mary was a disciple of Jesus. She’d listened and watched and prayed and learned from Him.
She knew that had Jesus been present when her brother was ill, he would’t have died.
She saw him raise her brother from the grave.
Through Jesus’ proximity to her and her, what we call, teachable spirit, her asking and searching …. and desire to learn, Mary grew in the knowledge of God.
Did she know she was in the presence of God?
At Jesus’ trial, just a week later, the Chief Priest will ask Jesus outright: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of God’… . News that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead had spread and this was clearly what people were claiming on the streets of Bethany and in Jerusalem.
Is this what Mary believed?
I suspect so! And I suspect it’s the knowledge of this and the fear of how this was all going to unfold, that brought her to her knees before him.
This is a woman before the Messiah, the Son of God, giving herself to him.
Today in this (Not the Chrism Mass!), from our places of isolation, we recall and we shall renew our commitment to God’s call upon our lives … and the promises we’ve made to :
give ourselves to Him;
and to follow and to serve him ….. in the good times and in the challenging times.
We are each called in different, yet life-changing ways
and each tasked with particular vocations and responsibilities.
Friends, I believe Mary teaches us so much about the Christian vocation.
She sets before us a model of humility and service …
She dares to buck stereotyping;
In a room of men, she lets down her hair and exposes herself to rebuke – even though she’s about the service of Christ.
She pre-figures the footwashing by Jesus of his disciples, in the Upper Room. (I wonder if Jesus recalled this moment, as he washed his disciples’ feet!
Mary embraces the drama of the anointing …. without explanation or commentary … and in no small measure she pours out the costly oil, which speaks of the immeasurable love Christ pours upon us; and WE, in turn are to pour out upon others.
One of the immense challenges for each of us in these days of Coronavirus, is understanding what vocation means when things are unfamiliar. When we can’t minister in the tried and tested ways and when we mustbe distanced from people. Mary draws us back to LOVE which is the essence of our being, our thinking, our actions, our service. I think it’s this that Jesus was driving at, when he said, ‘I no longer call you servants. You are my friends.’
God calls us friends as he calls us to minister to him, and through him, to the world.
And at the heart of calling and service is love.
This is exactly what we’ve been seeing in these present trials:
Friends, Bishop Paul and I are so very deeply touched and profoundly humbled by the faithful, creative and imaginative ways colleagues have adapted to the Corona crisis and how you’ve endeavoured to support, encourage, pray, lead praise, and provide pastoral care and bereavement support. This is happening in parishes, hospitals, schools, prisons and very many other work places. Each in your way, and under very challenging circumstances, are pouring out the NARD of blessing of your calling – we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your inspirational ministries!
For some Colleagues, confinement is something of a gift of time to pray and read and learn. I encourage you all to make time to attend to and build up your inner life.
And as we journey, each in our way, through Holy Week, to the Cross and the Empty Tomb,
may the life and joy of the resurrection touch and bless each of us, making us ready for the new morning – and the world beyond isolation.
God fill your heart with love. God keep you safe and bless you. Amen
For Compline in the Sacred Triduum, Thursday, Friday and Saturday I will be using Latin for all but the poem. Here’s the booklet for Holy Thursday. Compline will be live streamed at midnight on Holy Thursday, and at 7pm on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
At one level our communion with one another is always invisible, or at least largely invisible The people we gather with in church Sunday by Sunday, however large the congregation, are just a fragment of the many millions we are in communion with in heaven and on earth in the Body of Christ. We also share a deep, consubstantial, inter-being with all human beings in every time and place, and indeed with everything that exists, through our creation from the matter of the earth.
The current crisis has made some of that invisibility visible. I am really grateful for those who have joined me at Mass in my little Oratory and sent messages of appreciation. Several have asked for more of the Office to be streamed. So I thought I would add Compline for this Holy Week.
You will find the text and music I will use in the booklet above. I will do a new booklet each day with a different poem that I will read between the opening verses and the Prayers of Penitence.
As there is no movement or action I will focus the camera on one of the icons rather than on me. Which should improve the experience! I have indicated in the text where I will pause for silences, hopefully it’s not because I have fallen asleep.
I normally sing Compline rather early in the evening if I can, I will try for a consistent 7pm. It’s nice to feel the Office is complete before having family time and early to bed.
The Divine Office as used at Worth Abbey, music by Dom Philip Gaisford OSB:
music for the Introductory verses, the hymn, Responsory and the Refrain to the Nunc Dimittis
Hymn: Text Patrick Lee (Hymns for Prayer and Praise rev. Ed 265)
Samuel Weber OSB: refrains for the psalms
Aelred Seton Shanley Obl. OSN New Camaldoli: the anthem to Our Lady
Common Worship Daily Prayer: texts of the psalms and the Nunc Dimittis
For the timetable for the week and more thoughts on these strange times seehere.
Here (above) is the booklet of how I shall celebrate the liturgies this week in the Oratory. It is not a complete script, but I have included as much as possible, including music, so that I am not juggling with too many books. It does still require Common Worship: Times and Seasons, a separate booklet of readings (above), a psalter (I shall use the Grail) and the Belmont Abbey English Gradual. Sadly, this is not available online, but the wonderful music of Abbot Alan is very singable, modal and simple. The Eucharistic liturgy is the one I have written about here and here. There is not much seasonal variation to it (no proper Prefaces etc) but the simplicity works, I think.
The Gospel of the Entrance into Jerusalem will begin Palm Sunday’s Eucharist, but without blessing of palms or procession.
For the liturgy on Good Friday I have added the insert prepared by the Vatican for the Solemn Intercessions in this time of pandemic, adapting it slightly to match the language of Times and Seasons, I think it works best in that text between the second and third intercession. In the Roman Rite it is suggested for rather later. The Proclamation of the Cross will be fairly informal with readings and poems from outside of Scripture.
At the Paschal Vigil I have followed the suggestion of Times and Seasons for Pattern B with an extended vigil of readings and psalms ending with the lighting of the Paschal candle. I think this makes much more sense than the usual pattern proclaiming the resurrection with the Easter fire and then settling down for the Vigil. As T&S suggests I shall do this by a fire (either in the garden or the fireplace, depending on the weather), but more like a camp fire for story-telling than the Easter light itself.
The only issue with the Pattern B structure is the proximity of the Exultet and the Gloria. Because I am just going to use the very short metrical Exultet that T&S gives and then a refrain to a simple chant Gloria I don’t think that will matter, but if the Exultet was sung solemnly I think it might seem odd to follow it immediately with the Gloria.
I am using the Women in Salvation readings from T&S but have replaced Psalm 113 after the Isaiah 66 reading with the Canticle in Common Worship Daily Prayer from Julian of Norwich which beautifully picks up the image of motherhood.
This is not a polished service booklet but a script for me to use in these strange times. I will, no doubt be adapting it as the week goes on and will post updates. Unless otherwise indicated the music in the booklet is my own adaptation of plainsong chants.
UPDATE Saturday 15:30 – The introductory chant on Palm Sunday is surprisingly underrepresented in my collection of liturgical music. A simple plainsong setting by Br Reginald SSF seemed to be the best I could do. There is a version in the Hymn-Tune Psalter which I have recently acquired, also the ‘Hosanna’ Jacques Berthier / Taizé chant but this is really a canon and seems very weak sung by a single voice. I then remembered the collection by Paul F Ford, By Flowing Waters, which is an English version of the Graduale Simplex. His setting of one of the palm procession chants to mode 1 works well I think. He sets the psalm verses to the traditional plainsong tone; I will use that with a text pointed in the Sarum Psalter or the Grail version with the Conception mode 1 tone as shown below. Or I may even use it twice, before and after the Palm Gospel, with verses from psalm 118 before and psalm 24 afterwards.
Common Worship: Times and Seasons includes a number of alternative, themed, patterns of readings for the Easter (Paschal) Vigil:
Women in Salvation
All of them require the use of Exodus 14 (rightly !) and there are 22 readings used over the 5 themes. One Easter night I would love to use all of them over the course of the night!
Given that I think that repetition is the key to good liturgy and that women are seriously under represented in both Scripture and lectionaries I would argue for using ‘Women in Salvation’ every year.
So here is a booklet of those readings (in the Authorised Version) in the hope that it might be helpful to some. I shall be using these on my own this pandemic year. T&S includes psalm references and Collects for each reading which are excellent. I may get round to adding those to the booklet, but, for now, the readings:
UPDATE Good Friday – I tried rehearsing Stations of the Cross live in the garden; sadly it just didn’t work, there was no way of moving the camera (iPhone on a tripod) in a way that wouldn’t have made anyone watching seasick. So no lies team of Stations but I will livestream Compline each night at 7pm Friday and Saturday.
UPDATE 6 April, 15:30 – please note there will now be no Eucharist of the Day in the Oratory, I am leading worship for the parish on Zoom at that time. In addition to the liturgies below I will livestream Compline each day at 7pm BST except for Maundy Thursday when Compline will complete the Watch at midnight.
Several people have asked what I intend to do for the liturgical services of Holy Week. I had been due to preach at St George’s, Paris and am sad not now to be with Fr Mark and the people there. I normally ‘preach’ Holy Week as a guest preacher so I rarely have to organise the liturgies of the week or the Triduum, although I have done a few vacancies over the years and when I was a parish priest always enjoyed working out what would work and what wouldn’t. here’s a picture of the booklet from the last time I had sole responsibility which was at St Faith’s, Landport in 1997:
I have been live-streaming the Eucharist each day from my little Oratory in the garden over the last few days. I am so deeply moved to be joined by people, some I know and am fond of, some strangers to me. I shall continue doing this during Holy Week at the following times:
Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: Eucharist at 6:30am BST (GMT+1)
Maundy Thursday: Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper 8pm, I will keep a Watch until midnight and sing Compline at midnight. Eucharist and Compline but not the Watch streamed.
Good Friday – Stations of the Cross 10am
Good Friday: Liturgy of the Day at 2pm
Easter Day: Paschal Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter: 3:30am;
In terms of what I will do, those who tune in to the stream from the Oratory seem to appreciate the simplicity and silence. Others will be looking for something very different and there are many places offering sophisticated audio-visual material, and grander liturgies. Which is excellent. For this domestic Oratory as simple as possible seems to be best. For the Eucharistic liturgy the rite will be just as I have been doing and as described here.
Normally for a weekday Eucharist in the Oratory I just wear a stole over my usual clothes; to mark the solemnity of this week I will wear the usual vestments on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and at the Easter Eucharists and an Alb and stole on Good Friday at the Liturgy.
As you can see there is no blessing of the palms or procession, no Easter fire, no veneration of the Cross. Times and Seasons (T&S) gives different sets of readings for the Vigil with themes. I have chosen ‘Women in Salvation’. I will sort out what I am going to do at the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday morning in due course and post here when that is done. It will be very simple indeed. The Vigil will start early and be very leisurely which I have done before and works really well, with a rather informal feel. I’m hoping I can do this in the garden at a little bonfire. Vestments put on only at the move into the Oratory for the first Eucharist of Easter.
I love to sing and I love the psalms. So alongside a few simple chants from Taizé and the Iona Community there will be psalms with sung refrains, from Belmont Abbey (An English Gradual, Fr Alan Rees OSB), Br Reginald SSF (Lent, Holy Week and Easter – Services and Prayers). I won’t sing any hymns. I am not a great singer and singing hymns unaccompanied is pretty tough going. On Monday to Wednesday the Chants (sung with verses of psalmody) will be (Mon – Wed Introit Belmont 35, Psalm Belmont 44, Concluding Chant Belmont 42). Other music see below:
Introit Reginald 9
Commemoration of the Lord’s Entry Into Jerusalem (T&S 269 – 271 omitting prayer over the palms and procession
Liturgy of the Word – Psalm Belmont 35
Intercession T&S 272-273
Eucharistic liturgy continues as usual Concluding Chant Belmont 30
Introit Belmont 52
Penitential verses T&S 294
Psalm Belmont 111
Intercessions T&S 299
Preparation of the Gifts T&S 300
Eucharistic liturgy continues as usual
Concluding Chant Lamentations (traditional)
Watch until midnight before the Blessed Sacrament
Midnight Compline: traditional plainsong
Good Friday Stations of the Cross (10am) more detail later.
Good Friday – Liturgy of the Day
Gathering and Liturgy of the Word T&S 307 – 308 Psalm Belmont 181 (The Passion ends at Jn 19: 37)
Prayer around the Cross – Jesus remember me, (Taizé), Belmont 178 verses from psalm 26, poetry and silence
The Solemn Intercession at the Cross
T&S 316 -318
Holy Communion T&S 319 – 320 Gospel of the Burial of Christ (Jn 19: 38-42
The Paschal Vigil – Times & Seasons Pattern B ( 3:30 am – 5:30 am)
T&S Pattern B – outside (if not raining, or by the fireplace), at a fire
Introduction T&S 354 –
Readings T&S 373 (Theme ‘Women in Salvation’) Refrains for psalms, selected verses, from Sunday Psalms, Kevin Mayhew
1 Genesis 1 Psalm 104
2 Genesis 3 Psalm 51
3 Exodus 12 Psalm 77
4 Exodus 14 Canticle
5 Ruth 1 Psalm 61
6 1 Samuel 1 Canticle CWDP p 572
7 Proverbs 8 Canticle CWDP p 599
8 Isaiah 66 Psalm 113
9 Daniel 3 canticle Benedicite
The Paschal Candle is blessed and lit T&S 355
Move to the Oratory (5:30am)
Metrical Exultet T&S 358 Tune: Woodlands
Gloria mode viii
Liturgy of the Word Psalm Belmont 60
Blessing of Water Chant: Water of Life …
The Eucharistic Liturgy continues as usual
Concluding chant: Belmont 67
Eucharist of Easter Day
Usual Eucharistic Liturgy with Gloria and Creed, chants: