Rector’s Letter April 2023

Dear friends,
The end of April 1986 was a life-changing time for me. It was when I experienced the services of Holy Week and Easter for the first time. I had stayed on in Cambridge for the holiday and went to church every day with a Catholic friend. We travelled the journey together from Palm Sunday to Easter Day experiencing the many different emotions stirred up by the liturgy and the readings, from the fresh hope of Palm Sunday, through the intimacy of Maundy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday to the exuberant joy of the Easter Vigil.

I have travelled that journey every year since then and each time I feel that I’m drawn a little deeper into the mystery of our faith. I look forward this year to accompanying you on this journey whether you have been travelling it for many years or whether this your first time. I hope that it will be a blessing to us all.

We will start the Great Week on Palm Sunday by gathering together in the hall to remember and re-enact the story of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before processing to the church singing and waving our palm crosses. While the children build their Easter gardens in the hall, the adults will listen and reflect on Matthew’s account of the Passion, the events of Christ’s last days, presented as a dramatized reading. In the evening, we will reflect further on the events of that day in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and prepare ourselves for the rest of the week.
You are welcome to drop in to church to pray any time during the week. There will be materials to guide you or you can just to sit and pray in the tranquillity of the building.

On Wednesday evening, we are invited to Holy Trinity Church in Stirling for a performance of sacred music with Scripture readings and poetry. It will feature Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, a musical setting of a 13th-century hymn which portrays Mary’s suffering during the crucifixion of his son, written during the final weeks of the composer’s life.

On Maundy Thursday, there is an opportunity to gather in our cathedral in Perth in the morning for the Chrism Mass. During this eucharist, the Oil of Chrism (for Baptism) and the Oil of Healing are consecrated by the Bishop, and all ministers, both ordained and lay, re-affirm their promises and re-dedicate themselves to their calling. Back at St Mary’s, the service for Maundy Thursday will start at 7 p.m. with a commemoration of the Last Supper and an opportunity to wash each other’s feet as a sign of self-giving service. After receiving communion, the sanctuary will be stripped of all its decorations and then we stay, if we wish, to watch and pray in silence as we remember the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane.

On Good Friday afternoon, we will present ‘The Nail’ by Archbishop Stephen Cottrell. Key witnesses, including Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate and Mary Magdalene describe Christ’s crucifixion from their own point of view and consider the part they played in hammering the nails into his body. Each reflection will be accompanied by a Bible reading, a prayer, a hymn and a period of silence. You are welcome to drop in for part of the service or to stay for the three hours between noon and 3 p.m. In the morning, children of all ages are welcome to explore the Easter Trail together in the church grounds at 10 a.m. followed by hot cross buns in the Hall.

On the evening of Holy Saturday we come together again just before nightfall to start our Easter celebrations. From earliest times, Christians have gathered on this night to recall the story of God’s saving work, from Creation through to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We will then light our Easter candle in a new fire and bring the light of Christ into the darkened church, sharing it among us as we listen to the Exultet, the ancient hymn of triumph and rejoicing. Then we renew the promises made at our baptism and hear the Gospel proclaimed before sharing in the first Eucharist of Easter.

On Easter Morning will be a quiet, traditional communion service at 8.30 a.m. followed by a lively celebration for the whole congregation together with an Easter egg hunt for the children.

The following Sunday evening, we have an opportunity to attend another concert of sacred music, this time in our own church. Scotland’s newest specialist chamber choir, Ominum, will perform William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices along with other works of the European Renaissance by Palestrina, Guerrero, and Tallis.

I hope that there is something to appeal to everyone amidst the services planned this year. I would urge you, however, not to skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Day but to take the journey one day at a time just as Jesus did.