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Reform Magazine | May 16, 2021

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On the pilgrim way: ‘I am having an exciting Holy Week’

Sheila Maxey feels the excitement of being in church

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It is Holy Week, and I am having an exciting week. We opened the church for Palm Sunday worship and we were a congregation of 20, quite a normal number pre-Covid. Then, on Tuesday, a dear niece felt able to get on a train and spend the day with us in the garden. We had not seen her since Christmas. Today, our weekly meditation, Sacred Space, began again, having last met in Advent. Our communion with each other in deep silence was quite wonderful. Afterwards, the five of us gathered in our garden for coffee and conversation – such a luxury now. A youngish widow talked about dealing with her husband’s huge collection of Lego models and electric trains. Someone else told us about a moving TV programme about Cistercian monks’ approach to death. We talked about the family records we all had, and what to do with them. So ordinary – yet so special to sit around sharing our lives and our thoughts. On Friday, our son and his family are coming to have supper with us – in the garden, or in the garage. We have not seen them since before Christmas.

And it is Holy Week and we will be able to set the church out, as we have for many years now, with a rough wooden cross on a red cloth background lying in front of the communion table. A crown of thorns made of barbed wire is at the head, with a candle in the middle. On Easter Sunday, the red cloth will be replaced by a golden yellow one, and there will be an arch of candles in small glass holders over the head of the cross. I have the privilege of leading worship this Easter Sunday.

As I prepare for Sunday, I realise how nervous the disciples were, even when told that Jesus had risen – and I feel that nervousness in the midst of my excitement. We now have big screens at church, and I have to use PowerPoint to display the words of the hymns (no books allowed). I am timid about lifting pictures from the internet, but I have found two already on my computer. One is an Easter painting by Neil Thorogood – a wonderful golden yellow sky with an orange sun and there, small and at one side, is a man in a black suit doing cartwheels. That speaks to my excitement, makes me want to sing and laugh. The other is from a ‘stations of the cross’ by Mark Cazalet. His resurrection picture is, at first, puzzling: a vast green space, rather like the Hackney marshes, with a background of high rise flats and factory chimneys. There is a track across the wasteland and there are three tiny figures – Jesus, talking to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. And I am there, having my doubts and questions taken seriously, Jesus meeting me on my ordinary daily way and making all things new.

Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex

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This article was published in the May 2021 edition of Reform

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