Holy Saturday

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It is easy to imagine Christ being dead as a moment of inactivity within the Easter story. But the time between Good Friday and Easter were anything but dormant for this was when Christ vanquished hell and ensured the faithful people of the first covenant shared in his gift of life eternal.

Here at St Anselm’s it has been anything but quiet too! This morning flower arrangers, cleaners and sacristans filled the church with joyful bustle as we go ready for the celebrations. As this went on the children were enjoying a workshop- making cookies, Easter hats and decorations and creating the Easter garden. It is pictured above.

And in a quieter corner the last of the penitents took advantage of Christ’s sanctifying grace as they prepared their souls to greet him. A great day and tonight promises to be a fantastic celebration. We are nearly there…

Good Friday

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This morning began with children’s stations of the cross at 10am. An informal opportunity to pause and consider the way of sorrows from the perspective of young people.

Afterwards time was spent in the confessional before we gathered, alongside baptists and Anglicans from the village, for an ecumenical act of witness. As you see each church marched with a cross. Saint Anselm’s winning the award for most visible thanks to Dave’s fluorescent jacket. Ouch my eyes!!

It was then back into the confessional ahead of adult stations at 1:30. This year we used a set written by Pope Emeritus Benedict which were poignant and hard hitting. And then back into the confessional for fr Nicholas and myself during the silence in church that lasted till 3pm

At 3pm the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion took place. As ever an austere and solemn occasion. The choir were in magnificent voice and the servers were excellent. It was the best Good Friday I can remember in a very long time. And, as was the case last night, the church was full.

Maria Desolata took place this evening and we are now ready to prepare for the celebrations to come. Children’s Easter workshop tomorrow at 10am. Church cleaning and decorating from 9:30am. Confessions all morning. At 8pm it is the Easter Vigil. Can’t wait!

Maundy Thursday

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The Mass of the Last Supper took place at Saint Anselm’s yesterday followed by the watch at the altar if repose until midnight. It was very well attended and there was a real sense of appropriate devotion throughout.

Today we have children’s stations at 10am, the ecumenical act of witness at 11:15 on the green, stations of the cross at 1:30, the celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3pm and Maria Desolata at 6:30pm. A priest will be available for confession throughout the day.

Holy Week services

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Tuesday: Mass and address 8pm
Wednesday: Tenebrae 8pm

Maundy Thursday: Mass of the last supper 8pm
(Followed by watch till midnight)

Good Friday:
children’s Stations 10am
Ecumenical service on green 11:15am
Stations of the Cross 1:30pm
the liturgy of the Lord’s passion 3pm
Maria desolata 6:30pm

Holy Saturday:
Church decorating and cleaning from 9:30am
Children’s Easter workshop 10am
The Easter Vigil 8pm

Easter Day:
Sung Mass, Maria consolata & blessing of Easter garden 9:15am
Said mass 11am

Easter joy early!

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I was going to save the announcement till Sunday- but the modern media arm of the local planning department beat me to it by emailing correspondents- but the wonderful news this week is that we have been granted planning permission to build a parish room at Saint Anselm’s!!! Hurrah!

This means we can move forward and create permanent space for worship – a church to call our own. All in time for Easter Sunday. Coincidence or a sign of providence? I favour the latter!

Ride on, ride on

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Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in Pembury and also the beginning of our Holy Week celebrations. Above you see photographs taken at the first Mass with people gathered on the village green where the liturgy began.

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After the blessing of palms and reading of the Gospel the procession headed down the road towards he church. The choir and congregation in good voice as we processed, mirroring countless Christians the world over.

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At the doors of the church the choir sang the traditional refrain before the crucifer knocked and the doors, representing the gates of Jerusalem, were thrown open. We then processed to the altar and Mass proceeded with the collect and dramatic reading of the Passion. A great start to Holy Week with both Masses well attended. Slowly but surely we are growing!

Because children matter…

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Isn’t the photograph above charming? Do click on it to see it enlarged. It captures the joy that young people bring to the world.

This Holy Week the children of Saint Anselm’s community are not being forgotten but will be at the heart of our celebrations. Indeed there are two very special things lined up just for them.

On Good Friday morning at 10am there will be Stations of the Cross for children. These will focus on concerns that children face and help the young people to walk the way of the cross with Jesus.

On Holy Saturday morning, again at 10am, there will be an Easter Workshop. This is always great fun. As the adults decorate the church for Easter so the children take part in craft activities and create the Easter garden. All children are welcome at both of these Holy Week events.

Adding insult to injury

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David Cameron has spent the last few days loudly trumpeting a love of the Christian faith in the media and suggesting he is deeply indebted to it. If only I believed him but I don’t. I think he is just desperately trying to win back the Christian vote he spectauclarly lost when he showed an utter disregard for Britain’s Christian heritage by forcing through a redefinition of marriage.

That might sound harsh but come on! If Mr Cameron really was a sincere Christian then wouldn’t he have stood up for Christian teaching on marriage and the family? Wouldn’t he have resisted the increasing marginalisation of the Christian voice by proclaiming his faith before now?  Would he not be against abortion? Sorry Mr. Cameron but too little, too late doesn’t even come close to it. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder. The Church has been under attack on your watch and pushed ever further to the margins of public life.

All I see is a politician beginning to panic as realisation dawns on him. From within his comfy elitist liberal circles he had imagined “gay marriage” would pass with a minor flutter. But it has blown up in his face.  He has lost many voters over this and a chasm has opened up between the cronies in Downing Street and the voters on the street.

The fact remains that I still see no Christian vote in England at present. No matter the party they are all a vote for liberal secularism and anti-family legislation. The votes therefore seem almost as hollow as the sincerity in Cameron’s recent words…

Why Good Friday?

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This week the Pembury Churches Together group, which meets under the banner of Hope, launches a special campaign. Entitled ‘Why Good Friday?’ the aim is to direct as many people as possible to a simple website that explain the Passion in simple language.

Three banners have been produced. They will be displayed to the public outside the Catholic, Baptist and Anglican church over Holy Week. They simply ask “Why GOOD Friday?’ in large letters and underneath provide a web address for any curious people to visit.

This is an excellent idea and I was very happy to be part of the team who put this together. Even if just one non-believer comes to know the real joy of faith in Jesus Christ then it will have been well worth while. I will be praying that this is exactly what does happen.

Saint Anselm’s doors are open to all this Holy Week. Catholics and enquirers alike. Do visit the site and read the three reflections which come from the different traditions which worship in this village.

Noah: A film review

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Noah has divided opinion. I can see why. It raises fundamental anthropological questions whilst playing  fast and loose with biblical narrative. Not everyone likes that but I did! Perhaps a warning needs to be given. Some obvious points raised which seem to have escaped those critics who lambast the film for using artistic licence.

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Firstly this film was made by Hollywood not the Vatican. It does not come with an imprematur and we would therefore be foolish to expect a neat Catholic narrative. If you seek a theological masterpiece making reference to  the ark as symbol of the church, or to the waters with the dove over them as symbolic of baptism- you will be disappointed.

Second the film was made by Hollywood not biblical literalists. So if you were expecting an adaptation that simply stuck to the text, again, you will be disappointed. This is a film that plays around with scripture, introduces its own ideas and interpretation, but it nevertheless serves up some very good philosophical questions to the 21st Century.  And for that I am grateful.

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And anyway- you couldn’t really make a coherent biblical film about Noah! For Genesis is hazy on facts. At certain points animals arrive in pairs but elsewhere in much greater number because some are needed for Jewish sacrifice.  And how could EVERY creature possibly have been present? How far did the flood spread? How did the animals not kill each other? How did they feed the carnivores? So many questions with no obvious answer. The point being that literal fact, in this ancient text, is of much less importance than the theological truth it conveys and teaches.

And that truth is presented in the film rather well. For this is set in an era before Christ. The faith has not yet been fully revealed but is still in the process of being revealed. So the main characters, though they strive to do the will of the creator, do not always understand the events they are caught up in. They do not have the benefit of really knowing God like Christians one day will.

So Noah poses the questions more than it answers them. To me as a Christian Jesus is, in fact, the answer. But the film is not about Him. It is about Noah and that all important question…and it needs to be raised. An d the question is this…

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Are we human beings redeemable? Can the good we do outweigh the evil we ever seem to perpetrate?  Do we deserve salvation or destruction for our sins? Can we be saved? It is a question the film poses forcibly and leads to some dark and uncomfortable moments.

At first Noah imagines he is the answer to the problem. This is easy for him. God has called him to build the ark and recreate the world with his family. It leaves him happy and balanced. This is the first part of the film, which is how the story is often presented in Sunday School and then left.  We all enjoy easy accounts of the good guy.

But then the narrative and mood shifts as it dawns on Noah that he himself is a sinner. As much part of the problem as anyone else on the earth. No longer do we see a happy, balanced Noah. Rather he becomes deeply disturbed and disturbing. A fundamentalist mindset kicks in as a battle rages within his soul. Should he annihilate his own family and end it all forever? Or does he let them live and thereby leave the problem of the fall alive and kicking?

The film handles this internal struggle well. Poor Noah driven almost mad as the devil seeks to use him, the vessel of God’s work, to destroy humanity forever. It leads to a dramatic moment of awful tension which I will not speak of lest I spoil it for viewers….be warned this is Noah as you have never seen him and not suitable for young children. The film is not short on violence.

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Within the film the Genesis account of creation is presented beautifully. As is this great question as to the nature of mankind and the problem of his rebellion against God. The film ends with the rainbow and the promise, unspoken, that God is with his people. What a great lead up to Good Friday then when the greatest conundrum for God and man was finally answered. When we discovered how God would bring together in perfection the need for mercy and justice as he gave his own life for our sake on the cross.

Much more could be said, especially as to the handling of Ham and his curse from his father. But the bottom line is this. It is a good film that poses philosophical and theological questions. Two people left the theatre early but all who remained to the end sat in silence afterwards. That is always a very good sign.

Go and see it but do explain to others that it contains elements born from fantasy. And at this point I must say something about the “Watchers”. These are meant to be the Nephalim (fallen ones) mentioned in scripture who are presented to us much like the Ents in Lord of the Rings. Many have grumbled that they do not play a part in the bible account. But I think the use of them was solid not least in the way they eventually show us God’s mercy.

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8/10 then- a great film with a strong performances. It poses fantastic questions to spark debate but true scripture it isn’t…my own real quibble was that the clothes worn looked rather too modern. But that is a debate for another day…