Traditionally the week before Easter is called Holy Week in the church calendar. There are lots of traditions associated with Holy Week and we keep some of those in the Exmoor Benefice.
We begin the week on 9th April, with a Palm Sunday procession in Cutcombe, during which we hand out palm crosses. This begins at 10.30am at the Triangle Field and continues in the Parish Church at a time depending on the speed of the donkey, usually around 11am.
On Wednesday 12th April Exford Church hosts the Barle Singers with a performance of Faure’s Requiem beginning at 7pm.
The Maundy Thursday service will be on Thursday 13th April at 7.30pm at Exford. The Communion is followed by the removal of all portable decoration from the church such as embroidered altar frontal, called the ‘stripping of the altar’. The Symbolism is meant to remind us of the suffering of Christ in his last hours as he courageously stayed faithful to the love of God and his vocation as God’s son in the face of his arrest, trial and death.
For those familiar with the story of Jesus and Holy Week traditions the stark empty church can be a powerful reminder of a special part of the story. For those unfamiliar, the story and the traditions of course will not mean very much.
Recent research has identified that 92% of the population of this country does not have a sense of connection with Jesus Christ in the context of church traditions, so it is not possible or helpful to assume prior knowledge.
This can be a sadness for some who love the traditions and have known them as a constant companion through the challenges and celebrations of their life; but it can also be an opportunity to think about what is essential in our traditions, in our living and telling the story of Jesus.
After the removal of decoration from the church there is a silent vigil in the chancel until 9pm when we say Compline, a short service of ancient prayers and psalms.
On Good Friday we are back at Cutcombe church for children’s activities in the church at 10am followed by an Easter egg hunt organised with the Friends of Cutcombe school. This is an opportunity for children to hear the Easter story. In the afternoon at 3pm is a time of solemn reflection on the story of Jesus journey with the Cross, through silence, words and music.
The tradition is to arrive and leave in silence.
On Saturday evening we have the first Holy Communions of Easter. This year for the first time there is a new Easter Communion service at Simonsbath church at 6pm. This replaces the early morning Easter vigil at Simonsbath this year. There is also the Easter Communion at Hawkridge at 10pm for those people who are lambing and might find this a convenient time.
On Easter Day there are services across the Benefice at 9.30am and 11am.
Everyone is welcome to all of these services and if you would like more information please get in touch.
With best wishes and prayers. David Weir