I suddenly realised that after being Bishop for nearly 8 years, I was free to spend Holy Week at the Cathedral. I have always been on the move, worshipping with those who are without regular priestly ministry or those communities that can feel far away from the rest of the Diocese.
I did a bit of reflecting and realised that I had been in almost all the churches at some point in Holy Week, spending the whole week in the South West, Caithness, The North West, Isla Deveron and the City Charges of Inverness. This time I would be in the Mother Church and I approach it all with both anticipation and a bit of trepidation. Thankfully we have been busy building a team approach at the Cathedral and I was looking forward to sharing this ministry with others.
Palm Sunday started with two processions, the 9.15 congregation processing inside the building while the traditional procession and Passion Reading at 11.00 went off without a hitch, the day was bright and the tourists were out to see the people pass by. In the evening we filled the Sanctuary with candles and had a service of Compline and Taize music in the darkened choir stalls, the power of the music and the words seemed to strengthen those who were there.
The pattern for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday followed both the statutory services and an additional Eucharist and reflection in the evening, that ministry was shared with Rev’s Iain Macritchie and Jane Wallman-Girdlestone with the added pleasure of a member of the cathedral serving team keeping us right.
On Monday we also had the annual Chrism Mass. This year the Canon Liturgist, Canon Mel, had arranged that the clergy could sit in the Sanctuary around a free standing altar, this enabled the rest of the congregation to sit in the choir, rather than having half of them the other side of the wooden screen. The turnout was very good both from the clergy and the laity and once again the Cathedral soup team had prepared a wonderful shared lunch in the hall afterwards.
Maundy Thursday arrived with a certain degree of contentment, the Art Exhibition taking place in the Lady Chapel was drawing people into the Cathedral who wouldn’t usually be there and as we were maintaining the regular pattern of daily worship in the St Andrew Chapel, the atmosphere was drawing more and more people to join us for that worship. The mixture of religious Art and the continuing pattern of prayer was very powerful.
The end of Term service for Bishop Eden’ s Primary School raised the tempo a bit and as always those children brought their own particular take on the church into their cathedral, it is great watching them own the building and feeling comfortable in it.
The evening Eucharist with footwashing and the stripping of the altars was enhanced by a powerful address from Iain Macritchie and by a procession through the congregation to the chapel of repose. As I sat quietly during the watch I became aware of a slight flurry of activity behind me and discovered a family from India who had come in to light candles and to pray with us, it was so unusually joyful to be kept awake by the excitement of these children who were watching with Jesus.
Good Friday was a day when we were trying something rather different at the Cathedral. The day started with Mattins and the Litany and then the Cathedral was turned over to a family activity day. All the symbols of Good Friday were involved, there were stations to visit and people to talk to, things to make, eat and take home with you, things to plant and prayers to add to the prayer tree or written on the stones for the Easter Garden. The atmosphere was great and it all concluded with a procession of the cross and the lively singing and by the end dancing of the Hymn Lord of the Dance. We then had a change of mood and a thoughtful congregation gathered for a meditation on the cross, and the tolling of the passing bell.
The Good Friday Liturgy was in the evening and the choir led the singing of the reproaches with real feeling, the service was shared with the congregations of Ness Bank Church and the People if The Old High Church and St Stephen’s, two of our neighbouring Church of Scotland congregations. Rev Fiona Smith led the reading of the Passion and the members of all congregations joined us at the altar, it was a good evening.
Easter Eve was full of the usual rush as the Cathedral was put back in order and I marvelled at the team of people polishing, arranging, cleaning and sorting. The Evening Service started with the Vigil in the Cathedral Hall and we then processed to the West Door and lit the bonfire, candle and thankfully, not the bishop, before we all entered the darkened Cathedral. The Exsultet was sung by Deacon Peter, the address was given by Rev Pam Shinkins, we rang bells, clapped our hands and stamped our feet through the Gloria and after a good soaking at the renewal of baptism vows we received the first communion of Easter.
One more busy day to go. Three morning Eucharist’s, one Baptism, one Evening Prayer and an Easter Songs of Praise, lots of people , lots of joy, an altar shared with those who had walked the week with me, new faces, old faces and some great singing both in the morning and at the Songs of Praise in the evening. We headed home, tired but uplifted, thank you to all who worked so hard and thank you to those who shared this journey with me, Alleluia.