Lent is almost upon us and I have gathered up all the palm crosses from last year to burn which will produce the ash for Wednesday's rites. Most people take their cross home with them, but those which are left behind are put away in a drawer for the year. Last year the weather was bad and I was concerned that the crosses would not burn outside so I helped them along with a little turpentine which resulted in a few people being left with red crosses on their foreheads long after the ashes has washed away, so better weather is hoped for!
We had an excellent turnout for Mass on Sunday but a faithful couple of dozen for Evensong and Benediction later that evening. People often tut about there being 'more in the sanctuary than the congregation' when referring to Anglo Catholics, taking a sly stab at our generally large sanctuary parties. If ten or so people are keen to come to Church on a cold evening in February and want to carry candles, then so be it! Whereas the reverse is true for the Mass, if there is a sanctuary full at Evensong then I would be quite happy, the faithful few gathering near to the altar to intercede on everyone's behalf and to worship the Lord are always welcome.
Anyway, here we are on our way out after Benediction. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that I have a new cotta on, I bought it from ebay, but was surprised when I was asked to make the cheque payable to an Archbishop in Stoke on Trent!
You may recognise, from this blurred picture, Father Anthony Oulton, curate at Saint James, Haydock, who we were delighted to welcome last night as the celebrant for Benediction. I love evening services, they offer the chance for quiet reflection at the end of what has, this week, been an incredibly busy time. I am pleased to report that the playing of chant before the evening service produced a reverent and peaceful atmosphere, but before Mass, well, I give up. The place is a cattlemarket - with those who moan about it being amongst the worst offenders. I shall just have to bite my lip, for I am going in a few months anyway.
A few months which will, however, be happy months. Here you can see part of the choir preparing their books before the entrance procession for Mass. We are lucky to have a choir which welcomes new members and is actually jolly and cheerful!
Father Croft, Parish Priest was acting as Deacon for the High Mass this morning. I have ordered another High Mass set like this, but in purple, with a cope. The total cost is under four hundred pounds, so fits in with our tiny budget.
The last Sunday before Lent begins had a note of jollity to it before we run into forty days of fasting and spiritual reading which will sit comfortably with preparing for my Diaconal ordination but uncomfortably with preparing my house for renting and all the associated works. The Church is stripped down in Lent, hangings are removed, relics are taken away and devotions go up a notch with stations of the cross and a couple of devotional evenings if I can squeeze them in. I will not be here for my usual meditations on the passion this Holy Week, being instead with the nuns in Whitby for the whole week.
In the absence of any serious theological thought until tomorrow (I am too busy getting a long piece of work about the ethics of taxation off the ground), I thought I might share with you some of the peace and quiet of Saint Hilda's in the early part of Sunday morning.