I woke up early on Palm Sunday morning, (after being up twice with the puppy from hell during the night), with Jesus’ words in the Garden ‘Lord, Let this cup pass by me’. I was profoundly miserable and tired. Holy Week and all that it brings with it – the mammoth services, the intricate details of the liturgy, the making sure that all is done correctly and smoothly – lay before me like a huge unwanted behemoth.
So I began Passiontide with unholy thoughts of pulling the duvet over my head, staying in bed, eating chocolate and pretending to ignore the world for the whole week. But when you are the Priest that is simply not an option for Easter or for Christmas. I often joke that I didn’t read the small print on my ordination Licence about having to work over Easter and Christmas. That secular sense of unfairness that I have to work very hard while the whole world basks in Bank Holiday sunshine and merriment had overwhelmed me once again.
And then. And then, I remembered that I had to be there. So I got out of bed and began my day. From the moment I got to the Church I was hit by signs of God and his sense of Humour. ‘Yes, Samantha. This is why I have called you to do this job.’ I felt Him laughing at me. The warmth of my Congregation who are so grateful to be doing Holy Week properly again, combined with the most amazing unrehearsed Dramatic Reading of the Gospel (where I only had to read Judas as people where falling over themselves to offer to read parts AND we had a female Jesus!), reminded me why I do what I do and who I do it for.
There was a moment in the reading of the Gospel when Jesus died. The whole church was still, even Baby Elizabeth. My heart stopped. I breathed again and the narrator carried on with her story that never becomes old by its retelling. God was present and with us.
The day carried on. Lunch out with Robina and Scott across the road, gazing at the Sunshine and, again, wishing I was on the beach. And so we moved on to the climax of our Palm Sunday at St Ninians and for Seaton. As part of my efforts to make our Episcopal voice heard in Seaton and Donside, we have entered into joining the Ecumenical Donside Christian Partnership of churches with aplomb!
So on that afternoon 10 local churches and their representatives began a Palm Sunday afternoon walk from The Mission Church. Waving branches we walked through Old Aberdeen to St Machar’s Cathedral for prayers and then on through the stunning Seaton Park. Up to the walled garden for a brief meditation and then down to St Ninians for a short service and bun fight.
From the astonishment that so many people had turned up, to the symbolic and moving moment when the Roman Catholic Priest said prayers at the foot of the Nave in a Church of Scotland ‘Cathedral’, God endlessly surprised me that afternoon. Then we walked back to St Ninians to find my lovely ladies furiously buttering hot cross buns as more and more people began to fill our Church.
I stood at the lectern that afternoon and looked out at a full Church. Full of many different people, with different ethnic backgrounds, of different ages and having different ways of loving our Lord. And my heart sang and gave thanks. I retold the Palm Sunday story through our own eyes and prayed for Seaton. God was present and with us.
There is hope in this part of Aberdeen. In amongst the deprivation, the drug abuse, the feral kids and the unemployed/unemployable despair. There is hope. There is hope because the Churches can come together and find a meeting point in order to build the Kingdom of God here in this place and this time. We have begun. God is present and with us.
So my Holy Week began with unholy thoughts, but, my goodness me, I am ready for some Holy ones now.