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  • As Good as a Rest?

    The next few days will bring a break from routine - and a couple of days are technically 'off' but a bit of a bus drivers holiday if truth be told.

    gb4warr.jpgThis photo is almost ten years ago - which is decidedly scary!  It was taken at the last GB Camp (though they're now called residentials apparently) that I led in 1999 when we went to Scarborough.  Don't you just love the traffic warden outfit!

    I have been looking back at various GB photos because this weekend I will be in Northampton for the 75th anniversary of the company my sister and I belonged to as girls.  Both of us trained as leaders but whilst she escaped I seem to be a lifer having now done all but 28 years as an adult leader (various ranks at various times, including the now defunct 'Commandant' which used to raise titters among my work colleagues for same strange reason!!) and still going strong.

    So, after the EMBA Association half-day on Saturday, I will driving south for a social-evening gathering of 'old girls' where I hope to meet up with various retired leaders as well as my peers.  I'm led to believe one or two drop by here occasionally, so maybe I'll see you there?

    Sunday afternoon is a special thanksgiving service and parade - meeting outside the house where we used to live and marching behind the BB band to the church.  All very nostalgic!  And judging from the church's website nothing much has changed physically in the chapel since I left there in 1981 to go to university, though the list of services and activities is VERY different.  I have the privilege of reading in the service and it will be a happy honour, remembering an important stage in my own faith story and why I still remain committed to this organisation so many years later.

    After that, Monday is the EMBA's quiet day for ministers led by BU president Revd Dr John Weaver.  I will be travelling with a good friend (of ten years) from nearby D+6 where she is a specialist minister for older people.  I am looking forward to a good chat there and back, some space to be still and receive, and some renwed energy for the next relentless round of services and pastoral needs.

    I'm not sure it exactly counts as a rest, but it will be a change and I am looking forward to it.

  • Lirtugical Calendars with Littlies

    Last night at Girls' Brigade we started to move towards Easter with a fun evening of different activities which the girls moved around until they'd all done all of them.  So we had a table of puzzles and word searches, a table with colouring, a table of craft with funky foam and a table of cutting out.  All things our girls enjoy.  But before we began we talked through the tag end of Lent to see if we could work out the calendar of Sundays and other special days between us.  Quite entertaining really.

    So I asked what last Sunday was and then what next Sunday is.  Up went the hands 'Easter Sunday' (good try but not yet) 'Palm Sunday (closer but still not yet) 'Father's day' (unfortunately that one isn't for ages yet, it's in June)... It begins with a 'P'... 'It is Palm Sunday then!'  (honestly it's not).  So I explained that it was called Passion Sunday (unless you're a Catholic, which some of our girls are, who call Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday...) the day when Jesus began his last journey towards Jerusalem.

    Then we moved on to Palm Sunday.  What happened then?  Another flurry of hands and those frustrating waves and squeaks that mean 'me, me ask me' (which like all mean adults I ignore).  'It was a day when Jesus walked into Jerusalem with a donkey and all the women put their coats on the ground and the children had those, um, like branches, yeah, branches' (excellent answer, well done).  Wave, wave, squeak: 'no it weren't.  He, like sent two of them to get a donkey what had never been rode before and all the people shouted and waved branches' (yes, very good, that's mostly what "Jane" said isn't it, so you're both right really).

    Now, what other special days come before Easter Sunday?  There's one that begins with 'M'... Mau.... 'Monday?'  It does sound a bit like Monday doesn't it.  Maundy Thursday.  So we talked about the Queen and Maundy money and rich/powerful people serving poor/powerless people because Jesus has washed his friends' feet and told them to do the same sort of thing.

    After Thursday comes... 'Good Friday' and we mentioned the cross and that sadness - thankfully no one asked why it was called 'Good'

    Then comes 'Easter Sunday?'  (no, not quite, there's a day in between) ... Saturday?  What happened on Saturday?  Puzzled looks.  A waiting day - some people call it Holy Saturday some say Easter Saturday but it's a day we have to wait between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

    So what comes next?  Every hand goes up, eager faces longing to answer... 'Jesus comed alive again' (is that right?  All round the table are earnest nods)  A few hands remain up 'and we get Easter eggs,' 'and I eat one bite a day of mine,' 'and I get ten Easter eggs,' 'and I get ten hundred' (yes, it's a happy day isn't it and so good to celebrate).

    Will they remember any of what we said?  Who knows.  Did I have fun?  Yes.  I love the awful grammar and muddled tenses (though often highly logical) of small children.  I love the 'Jesus comed alive again' response, as if this was the most natural thing in the world for him to do.  And I even don't mind the elision of Easter and chocolate if it means they see it as a day of celebration.  I of course will buy myself one Fairtrade Easter egg which will do well to survive much past lunch time on Easter Sunday, and look forward to being surprised again by what this season brings.

    Now - time to check on the soup for my Lent prayers, average age about 80, and a different kind of fun and fellowship...

  • Palm Sunday Resources

    Next Sunday (Passion Sunday in Protestant calendars) I am not working but instead will be joining the other 'old girls' from the Girls' Brigade company I attended in my youth for its 75th anniversary parade.  This is scary.  As my little sister noted 'it really can't be 25 years since the 50th anniversary' yet both of us have lived more years since it than we did before it.

    My next working Sunday is Palm Sunday, which I love preparing for and gives me a great excuse to be a bit 'whacky' and creative as well as being an occasion where I usually try to move people on into Holy Week on the basis that most of them won't be in worship again until the following Sunday.  Maundy Thursday we'll get about a dozen; Good Friday many people will sniffily not come to the muti-sensory outreach event because 'it's not a proper service you know'. Grrrr.

    Anyway, the creative juices were flowing this morning and I have put together what I think is a great service with loads of dramatised Bible readings and no sermon.

    We begin with Palm Sunday and I found the basis of a wonderful 'chant' in A Procession of Prayers compiled by John Carden, published Cassell 1998 page 152


    Jesus is passing this way!

    This way, this way.

    Jesus is passing this way -

    He's passing this way today.


    I intend to start this chant going myself, nudge someone (a plant) and say 'pass it on' in the hope that we can get the whole congregation chanting together.


    We will also use a 'football chant' style version of the gospel record...


    Hosanna!  (clap clap clap)

    Hosanna! (clap clap clap)

    Blessed is the

    One who comes

    In the name

    Of the Lord!

    Hosanna! (clap clap clap)

    Hosanna! (clap clap clap)

    Hosanna in the highest!


    Finding suitable hymns/songs was also a challenge - and we will be using a selection of verses culled from various hymns and songs (after five years my folk are accustomed to this odd habit of mine).  There are very few Holy Week songs/hymns but I did find these two which I thought were helpful and so might others...


    This one is good for adults, thoughtful words and a solid metre (6684D) and we're using verses 1, 2 and 3 as part of our service on Palm Sunday


    What kind of reign is this,
    provoking such a scene?
    These crowds, the palms, the cloaks, the songs:
    what can they mean?
    God's Chosen One arrives,
    and loud hosannas ring
    as on a donkey's foal he rides,
    the humble King.

    But with a heavy heart
    this Prince of Peace has come,
    his eyes awash with tears for lost
    and in the temple courts
    his holy anger burns:
    the greedy money-changers' stalls
    he overturns.

    This promised, rightful Heir,
    by prophets long foretold,
    brings teaching and authority
    both clear and bold;
    the leaders whom he chides
    respond with rage and fear-
    they plot his fate; the crisis grows;
    the cross looms near.

    They want his blood, he knows,
    and he will be betrayed-
    there in the darkened olive-grove
    his choice is made:
    he takes the bitter cup
    with all it will entail,
    resolved to face the agonies
    of thorn and nail.

    What kind of reign is this,
    fulfilled at such a price:
    a King who freely gives himself
    in sacrifice!
    With wonder we recall
    the path our Saviour trod,
    acknowledging the risen Christ
    our Lord and God.

    Martin E Leckebusch (born 1962)
    © 2000 Kevin Mayhew Ltd
    6 6 8 4 D  (Suggested tune Leoni)


    This one is more all-agey in feel and I have idea what it is sung to. The metre is roughly 15 15 13 15 and I don't know any tunes that do that!  It does a few bits of rationalising the four gospel accounts and I'd want to inclusivise the language in places (but that's just me) but it gets my vote simply for doing an overview of Holy Week in one song.


    On Sunday he rode on a donkey into Jerusalem

    The people shouted: Hosanna! The King of the Jews, Amen!

    They threw down coats and branches as on the donkey came

    On Sunday he rode on a donkey into Jerusalem.

    On Monday he entered the Temple, casting the traders out

    He overturned all the tables and raised up a mighty shout

    How dare you cheat my people and cause good men to doubt!

    On Monday he entered the Temple, casting the traders out

    On Tuesday he spoke with the wise men, words both strong and true

    They tried to trip and trap him, but the master knew.

    He told them of a king's son who came to collect his due

    On Tuesday he spoke with the wise men, words both strong and true.

    On Wednesday in Bethany's village, Mary's love was told

    A precious perfume was given that might have been kept or sold

    And Judas sold his master just for a bag of gold

    On Wednesday in Bethany's village, Mary's love was told

    On Thursday he shared in the supper - it was to be his last

    Then out he went to the garden and prayed that the cup would pass

    And Judas with the soldiers betrayed him with a kiss

    On Thursday he shared in the supper - it was to be his last

    On Friday they took him to Pilate, asking him to decide:

    A traitor and a blasphemer;  he must be crucified!

    Then to the cross they nailed him, and watched him as he died

    On Friday they took him to Pilate, asking him to decide.

    On Saturday he was a-lying, bound up in Joseph's tomb

    A massive stone at the entrance, securing his final doom

    His friends who loved him dearly were filled with fear and gloom

    On Saturday he was a-lying, bound up in Joseph's tomb.

    On Sunday he rose in triumph, leaving an empty grave

    He stood before his disciples and told them they must believe

    Now go into the world, tell all men I'm alive!

    On Sunday he rose in triumph, leaving an empty grave

    Chick Yuill (c) Salvationist Publishing and Supplies Ltd

  • Keeping Silence

    Today is, according to a Radio 2 Pause for Thought this last week from a Baptist minister, so it must be right (sorry whoever you were I've forgotten your name), Refreshment Sunday.  The fourth Sunday in Lent is one when people were given respite from their Lenten abstinences for one day before they continued on towards Holy Week.

    We focused our thoughts on the Markan account of Jesus being anointed at Bethany (Mark 14) and I tried to explore something about how the home of the leper Simon (how did manage to retain a home if he had this disease - was he wealthy?  Was he a lonely man with few friends/visitors because of his disease and consequent ritual uncleanliness?) provided a place of refreshment for Jesus, and the significance of the moment when Jesus allowed himself to receive the refreshing of anointing by an unnamed woman.  We pondered whether we would actually be like those who berated her for waste and found themselves shocked that Jesus, the advocate for the poor, praised her actions.  There is a tension between doing what Jesus calls us to do and being refreshed for that service.  Sometimes, I concluded what we need is not more words but less; sometimes what we don't need is another hymn or song but a time of silence.  So we did just that - we spent three minutes (the average length of a hymn)  in silence, after which I read a few verses from 2 Corinthians 4 (treasure in clay pots) and gave everyone a lovely illustrated text of 2 Cor 4:7 I'd found online.

    It seemed to do whatever was needful - some shed a few tears, others simply relaxed in the stillness.  Baptists are not known for our use of silence or stillness; sometimes I think maybe we fear it.  Whatever the truth may be, for us today needing refreshment for our own journeys, it was the right thing to have done.

  • What would Mr Wesley think?

    The crematorium where I was this morning, like so many others nowadays is phasing out real live organists (though we had one) in favour of automated computer systems, notably one called Wesley (after John or Charles maybe?).  The advantage is that rather than home-burned CDs that fail to play, scratched ones that skip or tapes that get chewed the music can be downloaded and plays clearly.  What happens when the computer goes on the blink is another matter altogether - but we nearly found out this morning.  For some reason, this particular place expects the Funeral Directors to control the music via a touch-screen at the back of the chapel (which for us meant him having to move some of the people to get to it) rather than their staff doing it behind mirrored glass.  For some reason he had to press the start button four times before the music began and was starting to look rather worried by the time the strains of 'soul limbo' began to fill the air.

    The upside was that as the music started a murmour of gentle laughter rippled through the chapel and people began to smile again.  It was hard to walk slowly and in a dignified manner to such bouncy music but as I exited the chilly chapel into the warm spring sunshine it felt like a "good job jobbed" - even drawing praise from a fiery West Indian lay preacher!

    What Mr Wesley might make of his name being used for the infernal machine I have no idea, but suspect he'd have liked the tune as he is one of the many allegedly to have denied Satan royalities on good tunes.