I began Good Friday today with a united walk of witness here in Knaphill. Beginning at the Catholic church, we walked to the King’s House Coffee Shop, then to the Methodist premises, followed by the Baptist church, and finally to Holy Trinity C of E. At each stop someone read a portion of the Passion story. Different people volunteered to carry the big cross on each leg of the journey.
Most moving for me was the final leg, when a man with learning difficulties asked to carry the cross. Nothing like as physically big as his predecessors in the task, he struggled in places and had to be helped by two other men. It was a small glimpse of Jesus falling down and needing help from Simon of Cyrene.
As the one co-ordinating the walk, I found myself at each stop standing on one side of the person with the cross, while on the other side was the reader for that particular episode from the story. In a tiny way, it was like being one of the two thieves either side of Jesus.
In these two ways, I found myself entering into the Passion story in new and unexpected ways this year. The sadness was in having to leave the following united service at Holy Trinity fifteen minutes in to get to the tail end of a united service at my other church, Addlestone Methodist. I arrived at that, just as they were singing the closing hymn. Having to flit between the two communities felt like it undermined a sense of belonging. Can you belong in more than one community at once? If missional Christianity includes earthing ourselves in a particular place by incarnational ministry, does this militate against it?
I wasn’t the only minister facing this issue: the Methodist deacon left at the end of the service to go to his other church, and two of the New Frontiers church leaders came over from Chertsey, where they used to be based and still share with other Christians.
Unlike in Knaphill, there had been no united walk of witness in Addlestone. Some of the people in Addlestone said how much they missed it. A discussion on why we think the procession of witness on Good Friday is important would be interesting. As I’ve said, it hit home for me today in unexpected ways. On other occasions, I’ve watched passers-by as Christians walk behind a cross on this day of the year, and wondered whether they felt we were doing it as a reproach against them. I don’t suppose most Christians do have that attitude, but I’m curious to know how it’s perceived, if at all. A judgement? An anachronism? Other reactions?
In contrast, my wife and children didn’t come with me on any of these events or services. They needed something more child-friendly. Happily, the nearby church of Holy Trinity, West End Village had a suitable act of worship for children for Good Friday. Too often we are so caught up with the solemnity of the day that we exclude children by the tone of what we offer. Holy Trinity West End knew better. They provided a service called ‘Paradox’. It included two songs, a very short talk by the Rector, and plenty of crafts. Rebekah had her photo taken with her cross on which she had chosen to write, ‘Jesus died for me.’ If Christ died for all creation, then he died for the children – don’t we owe it to them also to find a way of including them in on this most holy of days? I’m glad Holy Trinity did.
I’ll be interested to know your thoughts on our experiences. But I’ll stop typing there and go back to finishing preparations for Easter Day.
why try to be at two places at the same time … why not have a combined service on days like this …
Because the two Methodist churches I serve are eight miles apart. They serve completely different communities. There is also no crossover between the ecumenical partners who come alongside for these services.
I didn’t feel that I could belong to two communities at once, Dave. That’s why I was unhappy living in Addlestone yet not able to be a member of the church. I did like Knaphill, but never really felt I belonged there. Similarly with St Peter’s; I enjoy going but don’t feel at all apart of their community.
We seem to, wrongly, I feel, have the idea that the Minister should be at everything. But it’s not realistic or fair to expect that. Could you alternate between the two – Easter at Knaphill one year, and Addlestone the next? Or Good Friday at one church and Easter Sunday at the other?
I think we might have to look at that, Gill. I won’t publicly commit myself to an opinion on that here, but we might need a discussion with the stewards of both churches. Up until now, I actually haven’t had a conflict on Good Friday before. In every previous appointment I have only had one Good Friday united act of worship to attend, and so it hasn’t been an issue. Here, both Knaphill and Addlestone have sizable ecumenical efforts on that day.