A contemplative, compassionate and courageous Holy Week

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In Thatcham, Berkshire, the team have incorporated the ‘three Cs’ from our Common Vision for a contemplative, compassionate and courageous Holy Week. The Revd Mark Bennet, the Rector of St Mary’s, describes how.

We have a communion service in the evening of the Monday to (Maundy) Thursday of Holy Week. Our tradition has been to have the laying on of hands and anointing for healing on the Wednesday evening.  It is our best-attended healing service of the year.

Photo: Shutterstock

A couple of years ago we noticed that our pattern would comfortably accommodate the three Cs with the culmination on Maundy Thursday and the foot washing of reflection on being more Christlike.

On Monday, we enter contemplatively into the Holy Week journey, on Tuesday, we would consider the courage necessary to continue the journey to Calvary as it became more demanding. On Wednesday, we would express compassion in our prayer for healing, and perhaps reference one or other of the stories of Christ (the anointed one) himself being anointed.

We are lucky we have a large team, and four of us took an evening each. The themes were interpreted very differently in word and symbol and in the decoration of the chapel where we hold the services Monday to Wednesday. We are lucky that our building, though it does have pews, is large and flexible enough to hold the Maundy Thursday service in the round with the table in the middle and the congregation gathered to share the eucharistic meal around it.

The themes work powerfully with the Holy Week journey, and that it is creativity which they evoked for us rather than wrestling with material which doesn’t quite work. We think this pattern or something akin to it could fit into almost any space. For us, the thematic approach significantly increased the intensity of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (we do the “last hour”, rather than three hours) experiences.

We don’t use any spectacular or special material for this, just standard liturgies, enriched with appropriate decoration and reflective pieces in the sermon slot, but find that working the themes together gives the liturgy a fresh life.

If you are looking for something different to do this year, why not try to give this simple pattern a go?