Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy week. This year will be very different for us all as we will not be able to gather together in love, worship and fellowship in any of the six churches in the Benefice. We find ourselves in an unprecedented, very difficult and previously unthinkable situation. I have been reliably informed the last time churches were closed was in the 14th century.
We have gone from travelling through the season of Lent together and preparing ourselves for Holy Week to suddenly hitting a barrier that has stopped us physically coming together as the body of Christ the church. Our world has suddenly been turned upside down.
We have two gospel readings today Matthew 21: 1-11, in this Jesus triumphantly enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The second Gospel reading, Matthew 26: 14 to 27:54, is the liturgy of the passion, from Jesus’ betrayal to his crucifixion and death. Both these readings show us how His disciples’ lives were also turned upside down. From the high of their accompanying the Messiah on His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the very lowest point when they fled, hiding from and abandoning God in the form of the son, Jesus Christ.
The situation we find ourselves in is extremely unsettling, to be locked out of our own church buildings. However, we need to continue to travel through Holy week as the Body of Christ the Church, even though we cannot physically do this together. We can be with the whole of the Church of England by accessing their very good resources on the Church of England website. https://www.churchofengland.org/ which I encourage you to use if you are able. We can also engage with the services on television and radio.
Furthermore, as a Benefice we can travel together by saying morning daily prayer at 9.15 every day, and/or compline at 7 pm.
Read the gospel reading for each day, starting with the two Palm Sunday readings today:
Monday – John 12: 1-11
Tuesday – John 12: 20 -36
Weds – John 13 : 21-32
Maundy Thursday – John 13 : 1-17. 31-35
Good Friday – John 18 and 19.
Saturday, Easter eve – Matthew 28 : 1-10
As this physical isolation has been forced upon us, it is perhaps a good time to take stock and reflect on our discipleship and the way we serve God.
In his book 'Christianity Rediscovered', Vincent Donovan says that we make the mistake, as Christians, of thinking we are taking God with us into any given situation. God is already there. Our job is to find out what God is doing and join God in that conversation.
During Holy week it is a good time to listen. To be open to the Holy Spirit and listen to what it might be saying to us and to be aware of its presence in all that we do.
I found this vow by the Carmelite order, and thought it might be of value in this present time;
Let each stay in or near their own cell, meditating, day and night on the law of the Lord, and be vigilant in prayer, unless otherwise employed by the Holy Spirit.
Travel safely through this Holy Week, always remembering that your fellow Christians and God travel with you.
The Church continues to be alive and active, but our buildings must close
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of new government instructions on Monday evening, I am sorry to say that the Archbishop has instructed that all churches are now to remain closed. Therefore, as well as public worship being suspended, ours and all church buildings in the Church of England are now closed.
This is a very sad step, but one which is vital for the safety and wellbeing of us all. We look forward to being able to open our doors again once restrictions have been lifted.
Our worship of God and our care for each other continue but cannot be done in our church buildings.
Please remember that we are here for you. If you have any concerns, wish to talk, or would like someone to pray with you, please feel free to call me (01305 262477) or email - firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact Pene Kennedy (01305 251422) – email@example.com
While our churches are closed, you might like to set aside a time or a place in your home for prayer and reflection. On the Pew News, (which will be emailed weekly Saturdays to everyone on the church Electoral Roll ), there will be a simple format for Morning Prayer. It is a daily office from the Northumbria Community, and I encourage all of us to join in with it. We shall be saying it at 9.15 every morning, but you can of course say it whenever you like.
Alternatively, you might like to access daily internet prayer resources, such as the Scripture Union’s website www.wordlive.org
Please be assured that our thoughts and prayers are with you and all in the community.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
May the peace of the Lord be with you
Revd Mark Phillips