There are times in Holy Week when I envy Quakers. Sitting quietly can seem an attractive alternative to organising Holy Week services in three churches. When I was in the seminary, I was a member of the choir. This let me off the hook for serving on the altar but leaves me ill-prepared when altar servers ask me, ‘What do we do now?’ or ‘Where should I stand?’.
I would love to simplify the Holy Week services. For me the Good Friday service should consist of hearing the readings – especially the Passion – followed by venerating the cross. Then we should go home. An advantage of the adoration of the cross is that no one is excluded, just as no one is excluded from coming up for ashes on Ash Wednesday. And people vote with their feet.
Will we ever win the argument that the Easter Vigil is the liturgical highlight of the Church’s year? Even the committed stay away. The Easter Vigil is maybe too late for the majority. Older people stay indoors after dark. If they are younger, they go out – but to socialise. The Vigil begins with the excitement of the blessing of the fire and the Exsultet but is followed by the anti-climax of lengthy readings. It’s good to reflect on the Word but maybe we could place that before the blessing of the fire rather than after.
On the Isle of Man we have the tradition of gathering with members of other churches on Easter morning to watch the sunrise. I know some parishes elsewhere meet on the beach. We read the gospel account of the Resurrection. John’s version begins with the words ‘Very early on the first day of the week and still dark’; that’s the service that gives me a real Easter buzz. Afterwards we pile into Costa for an Easter breakfast.