Being together at Easter

By the time you read this, the Benefice should have been well advanced with its plans for Easter: Holy Week normally starts with the Procession of Palms and a Benefice Eucharist at Epwell on Palm Sunday (5th April), where we follow a donkey (weather permitting) round the circular road in the middle of the village, commemorating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It would have continued with the Stations of the Cross service at Epwell on Wednesday 8th April, commemorating Jesus’ painful progression through Jerusalem carrying his Cross; the Maundy Thursday service at Sibford to commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper and the occasion on which he washed his disciples’ feet; and concluded with the one hour Meditation at the Cross on Good Friday at Tadmarton followed by a devotional service at Broughton on Good Friday evening. But Good Friday was not the end of Jesus: on Easter Day we would have started our celebration of his resurrection from the dead, of his conquest of the fear of death, with the first communion of Easter at 6am on Easter Sunday at Swalcliffe, and family communions in all churches later in the morning. Alas, the suspension of public services means that we are unlikely to resume worship on Sundays or during the week until the threat of catching the Corona Virus – Covid 19 – diminishes.

The impact of that virus on the country is increasing every day, with advice which restricts our lives more and more, especially for those who are over 70 or with underlying health conditions. And at this stage it is impossible to predict when those restrictions will end. One parishioner has asked me whether the combination of floods and disease – alongside fire (if you live in Australia) and plagues of locusts (if you live in East Africa) – foreshadow the end of time. Personally, I don’t believe so, but these threats to our comfortable lives certainly challenge our preconceptions. They remind us of the need for mutual support and consideration of others, and of the relevance of second commandment in Jesus’ summary of the Law – Love your neighbour as yourself. We will all be challenged by current events to follow guidance on self-isolation if we are unwell, to be considerate in avoiding the risk of passing on germs, and to care for others who are worried, suffering or self-isolating. For all of the tales of suffering, there are also tales of love and self-sacrifice about those who care for the old and infirm or who consider others first. I cannot say why God allows these horrors to occur, other than to say that he has granted humankind free wills, but it is during such horrors that we as Christians have the chance to show others what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves.

 In our Easter celebrations each year we are reminded of the joy of our faith: knowing that through the events of the first Good Friday our sins are forgiven if we turn to Christ and that through the events of the first Easter Sunday the fear of death has been overcome: it is not the end. We should remember to reassure those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones by reminding them of the meaning of Easter, far more important than Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. And of course, it is also the end of whatever we have given up or taken on for Lent.  

Even when we can’t all join together for services, we can still pray at the same time and read the same scriptures. I will continue to circulate the pew sheets that we would have used in church with the regular bible readings for us to follow, and if it is possible we will explore whether we can use some sort of webcast to broadcast services to which we can all listen at the same time from the comfort of our homes.

So far as you can, have a very Happy Easter!

revjohn's picture

John Tattersall