Holy Week can make an activist of the most contemplative of clergy. Parish life, which has been revved up a bit for Lent, is now thrown into overdrive until Easter Day dawns, finding as it does so that the holy if bleary-eyed few have distinguished themselves by being up before it, lighting bonfires and candles to announce the joy of resurrection.
Not being in a parish myself these days, my actives are a little different but no less energetic. For a decade or so King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (of which I am the Dean) has hosted a festival of services and concerts throughout Holy Week. This year the festival is even more extensive than ever. Under the general thematic heading of ‘Responding to Modernity’ we have an art installation reflecting T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (called QU4RTETS), and no fewer than three choral passions (Schutz and Bach’s versions of the St John, and MacMillan’s new St Luke). Four of our events will be broadcast by the BBC (three of them live). We have Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen which he wrote during the Second World War and Haydn’s Symphony No 49 in F minor (La Passione) not to mention Rossni’s Stabat Mater and a visit from the poet Micheal O’Siadhail.
There are services too – Sung Compline (with a brief homily) late on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Eucharist (with stripping of the altar) on Maundy Thursday, Ante-Communion (with veneration the cross) on Good Friday morning – this is one of the most popular and moving services of the year. Later that day there is a very subdued Evensong sung by the Choral Scholars, which is all but dominated by Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah and then Easter Day brings a joyful Sung Eucharist and Festal Evensong (both of which begin with processions).
Tomorrow, Monday, it all kicks off with a special launch event at which Guy Johnson plays some of Bach’s Cello Suites, Juliet Stevenson reads extracts from Eliot’s Four Quartets and Rowan Williams offers a commentary on the literary and theological aspects of the poems. And all this in an antechapel adorned with stunning artwork by Bruce Herman and Makoto Fujimura, artists who will themselves offer a few words to introduce their own work.
This is of course much more of a feast than a fast, but I am hugely looking forward to it all. Full details are on line here http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/events/easter-at-kings/ Do join us for some of it if you can.