Ken’s Saddleworth Easter Highlights
I had a busy but very enjoyable first full Easter weekend in Saddleworth as I carried out the wishes of our joint stewards’ meeting to lead services in each of our churches on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Stewards in all three of our churches were wonderfully accommodating and despite many people being away at this time of the year attendances were pretty good.
Ecumenical Service of Readings and Reflections.
All this was made easier on Good Friday by Delph’s decision to return, post Covid, to their tradition of sharing worship with St Thomas’s on this day allowing me to conduct worship first in Uppermill, then in Greenfield, and finally to go on to Delph in time to catch Rev Hilary Egerton’s service of readings and reflections; a quiet and contemplative time of deep devotion as we marked Good Friday and prepared to enter Holy Saturday.
Hilary’s service ran along similar lines to our own Tenebrai service, held the night before on Maundy Thursday in Uppermill’s hall. This had the added atmospherics of ambient light fading into total darkness as we extinguished each of fifteen candles following successive readings from St John’s Passion. This was interspersed with sacred music and projected works of art depicting biblical scenes and was crowned by the magnificent ending of the strepitus: the loud noise that is traditionally performed as symbolic of the earthquake that followed Jesus’ giving up of His spirit. This is also used to mark Jesus’ descent in to the chaos of death for our sakes, and is intended to be symbolic of the effect of this upon the universe. Thanks to the very powerful PA equipment supplied by our friends at Greenfield, and the real earthquake recording used, this proved to be a memorable experience for those in attendance. So much so that we repeated the service on Friday evening, when other people came and were similarly moved.
[I have decided to rerun this service later in the year when our evenings are longer, and folks are not so likely to be away visiting family as at this time of year. As the printed Easter Study distributed at each of our services reflects: the theme of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not confined to a particular day or season in the Christian Year and so we may usefully revisit this at another time]
Unfortunately, I missed more of Hilary’s service than I’d anticipated since on the journey over from Greenfield I got caught behind the Morris Men’s procession going through Delph. I’d met Tim, St Chad’s church warden, earlier that morning, resplendent in his Morris Men’s costume, coming out of his cottage next door to our church, when I arrived to take the service at Uppermill. That should have been a clue for this ‘comer-in’ to expect some traffic disruption throughout the day! When we emerged from our Tenebrai service later that evening there were still Morris Men in full regalia walking around Uppermill and being very much centre of attention outside the pubs. They’d had a long day already but were evidently still up for fun and frolics after twelve hours in full costume! On the first of a four-day weekend break for Saddleworth’s working folks they set a joyful and festive atmosphere and were a colourful sight.
March of Witness
This festive atmosphere was very much in evidence when we staged our march of witness down Uppermill High Street carrying the processional cross (yours truly shouldering the burden this year) between the short service in the square and the concluding service at the Museum carpark. Though a solemn procession one couldn’t help but wish the curious and good-natured folks, who were enjoying their drinks outside the pubs and cafes along the route, a happy Easter! It was a fair turn out for the march, but it could have been better! I urge you to think of adding this to your Easter devotions next year. The walk is short and not strenuous, and its witness is a privilege to undertake for our Saviour.
Easter Sunrise at the Pub!
Easter Sunday began at 6.00 am with a sunrise service of Holy Communion in the beer garden of the Roebuck public house in Strinesdale, where Canon Sharon Jones led around thirty of us in worship. The weather was kind to us and the feeling of greeting the dawn on resurrection morn was very special. Afterwards we retired to the lounge bar for coffee, sausage butties, croissants, and orange juice. We were all indebted to the landlords Mark and Sue for their hospitality. A most satisfactory beginning to a day of celebration! Do think of coming along to this next year; there was no shortage of sausage butties!
All in all, the weekend was full and eventful with visitors and family in attendance across all three of our churches on Easter Sunday. I hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did and pray that as we progress through this year, which has already delivered up challenges of a distressing nature, we may all remember that the power of the resurrection is that of the Gospel itself, and, in the Person of Christ, is with us every minute of every day, whatever may lie before us. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!