April 2015

A Letter from your Licensed Lay Reader

Dear Friends,

In writing this month’s letter, I feel a bit like Janus, having to look back over Lent and forward to Easter and beyond. Lent is always a busy time in the church, since, in addition to the usual services, we have our Lent study groups. This year it was not possible to have our usual afternoon study group, but I have very much enjoyed leading the Thursday evening group where we have been exploring the journey of faith in words and music. Each session has included two short acts of worship, some Bible study and reflection and quite a lot of singing. We have looked at, read and sung a number of hymns and songs, both traditional and modern, and have enjoyed some lively discussion. Members of the group have had the opportunity to bring along a piece of recorded music, or a reading or poem which has a special meaning for them. Contributions have so far ranged from Faure to Elgar and from Wordsworth to Paul McCartney. I am not very good at giving up things for Lent, so instead I find that taking on some extra activity, like leading a Lent Group is very beneficial as part of my own Lenten devotions. I hope the members of the group have thought so too!!

The Lent study group will take us up to Holy Week where a whole week of activity has been planned. On Monday I will be leading a traditional plainsong Compline. When I first introduced plainsong Compline to Freemantle we sang it with men’s voices only, so it had a rather monastic feel about it. More recently it has been opened up to all who wish to take part. All singers will be very welcome, but it would be good if we could all gather for a quick run through at about 7.00 p.m. please. Those who prefer not to sing will be most welcome to sit and listen to this ancient monastic late evening office which dates back to mediaeval times but is still sung daily in many Abbeys and Monasteries around the world.

On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Eileen will be leading the “Stations of the Cross” which depicts the final journey of Jesus from the house of Pilate to Calvary, traditionally using fourteen pictures to illustrate each stage of the journey. On Wednesday evening we have a Holy Week Meditation led by Jenny, and the usual Maundy Thursday Communion with foot washing the next day. Good Friday is marked by an hour at the Cross, which is usually a quiet and meditative service with some readings and music.

One of my difficulties, serving as an LLM in two parishes, is that I can’t be in two places at once, so I will not be with you on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but I should be with you on Easter Day. One of my favourite services of Easter is the Easter Eve Service we have in the Parish of North Stoneham and Bassett. This takes place on Holy Saturday Evening and begins with the Service of Light and New Fire. A bonfire is lit in the church car park and the Easter Candle is lit from the bonfire and carried into the unlit church. All the members of the congregation carry candles lit from the Easter Candle, and as the Deacon carries the candle through the darkened church he stops three times, elevates the Easter Candle and sings “the Light of Christ” to which the congregation responds, “Thanks be to God”. This is followed by the Deacon singing the Exsultet (The Easter song of Praise).The Easter Eve service also includes the renewal of Baptismal vows and the first Communion of Easter. It is a very moving service and really gets Easter off to a good start. If any of you are looking for something to do on Easter Eve, please do come along to St. Michael’s, Bassett. The service begins at 7.30 p.m.

Back at Freemantle, we have the usual Easter Day Parish Communion at 10.00 a.m. on Easter Day and Choral Evensong at 6.30 p.m. When I spoke to Craig a few days ago he hadn’t chosen the music, but I am sure it will be good!! Easter week gives us a chance to get our breath back after a week full of activities, but please don’t forget the Freemantle Annual Parish Meeting on Sunday 12th April. This is the most important meeting of the church’s year when we appoint our church wardens and P.C.C. members who will represent us during the coming year. With Angi Nutt soon to be licenced as Priest in Charge of Freemantle, it is important that we have a strong P.C.C. to help and support Angi when she begins her ministry with us. Please do make every effort to be present.

Looking further ahead, our 150th anniversary celebrations are well advanced and more information will be available shortly (if not later on in this publication of the Parish News). Our anniversary itself will be celebrated on Sunday 26th July, but there will be lots of other events on and around that time, so please look out for the publicity.

At the time of writing this letter we are still waiting for the date of Angi’s licensing to be announced, but hopefully that will not be too far away now. Please continue to pray for Angi and her family as she prepares to join us in Freemantle.

May I wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter.

With many blessings to you all,

Malcolm Harper