Thursday, 7 February 2008

Ash Wednesday

Fr Mark and I are very pleased with the way Ash Wednesday was kept at St John's. The day started with Lauds at 9am followed by Low Mass with Ashing. This was supported by a large number of people. As soon as Mass was over we left the sacristy in the hands of Roger, our Lay Reader, and we hurried to our school where Jim, our other Lay Reader, and Jackie, our Pastoral Assistant, were preparing for the Liturgy of Ashes at the school. This Liturgy, attended by the whole school, was led by Fr Mark. All pupils and staff received the ashes. On their way out the pupils got a coloured sheet about the day and a Lenten Calendar.

From the school Fr Mark and I went our seperate ways. Fr Mark went to celebrate the Liturgy of the Ashes in the Gloucester House Residential Home while I had the joy to do the same in our local hospital. Thinking on it I realised that in the space of an hour and a half I imposed ashes on very young children in the school nursery and a lady in hospital who is 102 years old!

Exactly after finishing Midday Office I got a call from Fr Mark saying that the school altar is on its way. I went to school were in a few minutes the van arrived with a wonderful altar complete with stone that was saved from a redundant convent. All the staff and pupils came and admired the new addition to the school and all were pleased to have an altar. It was moving to answer the many questions from the pupils especially why the stone has five crosses.

That settled Fr Mark and I had time for a quick bite and back to church for stations at 3pm. After greeting those who came for stations we put together a focus corner for our congregation. As you can see from the pictures it is the cross venerated on Good Friday and a Russian version of the winding sheet. This was well received by those who came for the evening Mass.

5.10pm was time for Evening Prayer which today had a congregation too! As soon as we greeted those who joined us for the Office we set up for the Mass.

We had about an hour for a quick supper and then back to church for a rehersal before the Solemn Mass. Bishop Brian Castle, the Bishop of Tonbridge, was our guest preacher.

At 8pm we started this beautiful liturgy by the chant of the Litany of Saints, asking the help of the church above as we embark upon the Holy Season of Lent. Bishop Brian spoke about the need of digging deep during this season allowing the grace of God to work in us. This was refreshing to hear just a few days into our Year of Grace. The choir, ably led by John Hendry, did very well and gave us a good rendition of the anthem by Thomas Attwood, “Turn thy face from my sins”. The servers turned out in good time and served to good standard. After the Mass Bishop Brian greeted the people while Frances was very busy in the sacristy, washing the sacred vessels and putting away the vestments.

After closing the church at 10.20pm, Fr Mark and I declaired that if this day is anything to go by, then we will be having a wonderful and grace filled Lent.

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