Far from our usual joyful procession with donkey and palm branches, our start of Holy Week this year begins with us uniting in a different way from our physically isolated homes.
Of course, while this seems like a great sacrifice, we bear in mind the growing numbers of victims of the COVID-19 virus and especially feel for those who have died and for the bereaved they leave behind. Our sympathy and prayers are for them and for others suffering bereavement at this time.
As a cathedral community, we still walk together with our Lord through the days of this Holy Week; there is no doubt that for all of us the themes of these days will resonate in new and powerful ways. Jesus’ anger at God’s house of prayer degenerating in to a den of thieves may result in us valuing anew our own house of prayer at a time when we are being kept away from it. Our inability to gather together in the ‘upper room’ on the evening of Maundy Thursday will certainly leave us feeling bereft; and our own relative isolation on Good Friday may enable us to reflect in new ways on the isolation and suffering of Jesus in his crucifixion, expressed in his quoting of Psalm 22, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
It is important then that we continue to come together as a community, even though kept distant from each other physically, to walk the way of discipleship as Ripon Cathedral together through these very significant days.
We will be offering a daily service plus a daily reflection by Bishop Nick as we go through Holy Week. Evening prayer will continue to be streamed every night at 6pm. Canon Ailsa will preside at a Eucharist to be streamed at 7.30pm on Maundy Thursday and Canon Michael will lead a half hour meditation at 2.30pm on Good Friday. On Holy Saturday we will stream evening prayer at 6pm and on Easter Day I will preside at a celebration of the Eucharist which will be streamed at 10.30am; in this service we will celebrate as joyfully as we can in these circumstances the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is certainly the foundation of our faith and what gives us hope in these challenging days. I am delighted that the address for that service will be provided by Bishop Nick.
All of these services to which we are inviting people can be accessed via the front page of our website.
Having got through a week with symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus – thankfully relatively mild – I am very grateful to those people who sent me their good wishes and assured me of their prayers. It just brought home to me the great blessing that we have in being united as members of the Ripon Cathedral Community and the wider community in the city and region that appreciate so much what the cathedral does for them. Also I am extremely grateful to members of the cathedral staff for being so understanding of the challenges facing us in these unprecedented days – both those who are having to work in new ways and those who have been furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme.
I wish every member of the cathedral community every blessing for this Holy Week and encourage as many as possible to join us in our prayer and worship, either through the streamed services or by stopping to pray at the advertised times.
With my very best wishes