Dear Church Family,
A very happy Easter to you all! Christ is Risen! It has been a joyful (and tiring) few days getting organised for the Easter Weekend and Holy Week worship in the parish. It was a delight to have around 30 people come to the Maundy Thursday Eucharist, with another 15-20 people watching online. I was also delighted that Tino and I attended the Chrism Eucharist at the cathedral as representatives of Brentwood Deanery this year. It was wonderful to gather with colleagues and friends as we saw Bishop Peter (The Bishop of Barking and acting Diocesan Bishop) celebrate his final Chrism service before retiring later this year. It is, therefore, appropriate to hand this Easter newsletter over to +Peter and his Easter message to the diocese.
Easter changes everything! And as we begin to emerge from this cruel pandemic we so long for change!
It feels like the wilderness of Lent and the agony of Holy Week have lasted a whole year as we have travelled the way of the cross with our crucified Lord. The more so for the many who have been brutally struck down with Covid or bereaved: that has been their harshest reality and experience.
On a Friday which we now call “Good” Jesus’ friends had seen him beaten, bruised, bleeding, and finally stone cold dead on a cross. Their only consolation was that he was now resting in peace and buried in a rock tomb that was secured by a massive stone. But it was not the end. Breaking out on the 3rd day Jesus destroyed the power of suffering and death and showed that there is more life to come for us all: here and now and beyond this pandemic’s worst. Our Lord Jesus did not rest in peace, he rose in power. Easter changes everything!
If Jesus did rise from the dead then there is no more important fact in the universe or for our existence. He broke out of the tomb so that he could break into our lives: to offer us total hope now and for the future - whatever. For me, at the age of 20, finally realising that truth was the game changer. The Risen Jesus broke in to my life and transformed me from an argumentative atheist into a Christian disciple: far from easily, but definitely. Nothing has been the same since!
But Easter is not only personal, it is cosmic. It is the promise of God for our broken world. We are on our way to a new creation; a new earth where pandemics, disasters, destruction and decay will be no more. Evil and injustice will be wiped away. All will be made new, more real than ever. True peace will reign. This world is a mere shadow of what is to come. Easter is a vision of the future with God. It is here now and is coming to a place near you! And we are called to join in.
There are times in all our lives when we feel despondent, broken and defeated or simply apathetic..... there seems to be no real hope in the world. That has been the experience of so many this past year. And that is exactly how the disciples felt after the crucifixion, but it was not the end for Jesus rose from the dead. God still breaks out with new life and possibility so that he can break into where we are and how we are today.
Easter can and does change everything!
For those of you who are planning on returning to congregational worship, here are the plans we have put in place for Easter Sunday:
9.30am at St Peter’s & 11.15am at All Saints’ – Easter Sunday Holy Communion. We’re excited to be back together for the most important Sunday of year. There will be family activities at St Peter’s too. The 9.30am service will also be livestreamed on Facebook.
Easter Sunday, 7pm at St Peter’s – Join us for a contemporary evening of Prayer and Praise as we celebrate the risen Lord with music led by the worship band.
All are welcome at any of our services but please be aware that social distancing, hand washing, and mask-wearing will still be in place for the coming months. The family activities at St Peter’s will be in the hall, using the café tables – parents will need to remain with their children but will still be able to participate in the service. Refreshments will not be served until further restrictions are lifted. After church Zoom Coffee will not be available this week either and, to allow Alice and I a little rest, online Morning Prayer will not return until Tuesday 13th April at 9am.
Easter Garden Trail - 3-5 April 2021
Following on from the success of our Advent Windows project in December, we're delighted that a good number of households from across the parish have volunteered to create either an Easter Garden, a decorated cross, or a window full of Easter art in celebration of resurrection and new life outside their homes over the Easter weekend!
The map is now available on the website and Facebook page.
Whatever your plans, once again, a very happy Easter to you all.
With every blessing,