Maundy Thursday

Not much clergy blogging going on this week. We’ve all been working flat out to get everything ready.

Just a few notes about Maundy Thursday.

The focus of the worship today is the supper. Here at St Mary’s, we have a choral mass, that means that the choir have been preparing special music which they will sing for us to aid the devotions. There is no sermon tonight. Well, that is not strictly true. There is the opportunity to have your feet washed. The foot washing is the sermon and comes in the same place in the service that a sermon usually would do.

Some bishops down south are going out into the streets to clean people’s shoes in order to demonstrate in a modern way the gesture that Jesus made in washing people’s feet. [We should note in passing that the BBC call this Easter Week and should know better – Easter week is next week – See update below]. I applaud their effort, though I’m not sure that I think this is what it is all about. There is certainly something about service about Christ’s gesture, but there is also something about intimacy too. Anyway, the invitation is open to people to have their feet washed in church tonight. It is an invitation, not a compulsion.

The service tonight ends differently to every other service of the year. Everything is stripped out of the church whilst Psalm 22 is said. Psalm 22 is the psalm that Jesus himself quoted on the cross. The stripping of the church is an unsettling reminder of everything being taken away from Jesus.

The last thing to be removed is the blessed sacrament, which is carried to what is called an altar of repose. There the sacrament will rest and people stay and pray. We keep the watch until midnight here these days, though someone was telling me that it was once kept all night through. The watch is just a time for quiet prayer whilst we remember Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemene. Some people devote the time to quiet prayer, some to sitting thinking through what these events are about. Some people bring poetry to read quietly (RS Thomas is a favourite for me at this time) and some try to read a gospel through during the watch. It is a peaceful and a lovely time. People are welcome to come and go quietly. Some go away after the service for a break and then come back for the end of the watch later in the evening.

It is my practice to consume the last of the sacrament at the end of the watch. Good Friday and Holy Saturday are strange times. Sacraments have ceased. The experience that so many people know as a reality – that God is gone from them, is made lived out by us all. So, the font will be closed and there will be no baptisms, the tabernacle will be empty and there will be no communion, until the Great Feast begins early on Sunday morning.

Service starts at 7.30 pm. Bring your feet.



Kudos to the BBC for changing the headline to the article after I sent them a comment. It now reads – “Bishops in Holy Week Shoe Shine” rather than “Bishops in Easter Shoe-Shine.”