I met Revd Jo Richards this morning, resigned to another delay in opening up church buildings and services, as she relates below. Good News, though, is that the Commemoration Service for Thomas More will be happening, even if there will be restrictions on numbers. If you cannot be there in person, you can follow the service on live streaming.
Over to Jo:
Good morning to you all on another glorious summer day. I hope this finds you all well as we are here at the Rectory. It would appear that the lifting of covid restrictions will be delayed for a month; we will no doubt hear more this evening from the government, but all covid precautions are maintained across our three churches with the mandatory wearing of face coverings, unless exempt and social distancing, receiving of the host in one kind, and no singing. Prayers for those who are planning weddings at this difficult time, and all the uncertainty that entails.
Dates for your diary Service of commemoration for St Thomas More: Tuesday 6th July 2021, 7.30 at St Dunstan’s – Booking required via Sue: 01227 767051
May I encourage you to come along to this service which marks 50 years of this annual commemoration held in St Dunstan’s. From Rev. Brian McHenry: It is good to announce that the service to mark the melancholy anniversary of St Thomas More’s execution will return this year to St Dunstan’s after the necessary intermission last year. The speaker will be Dr Jonathan Arnold, the Diocesan Director of Communities and Partnerships, who is an expert in late medieval and Reformation church history. His subject is ‘Profit and Piety: Thomas More, John Colet, and the London Mercery’. The service will also be live streamed.
John McCrae was a Canadian military doctor during the Great War. He is best known for his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. This post describes an incident he witnessed 105 years ago, on 1 June. It is from the introductory material selected by his editor.
“Tuesday, June 1st, 1915.
1-1/2 miles northeast of Festubert, near La Bassee. Last night a 15 pr. and a 4-inch howitzer fired at intervals of five minutes from 8 till 4; most of them within 500 or 600 yards—a very tiresome procedure; much of it is on registered roads.
In the morning I walked out to Le Touret to the wagon lines, got Bonfire, and rode to the headquarters at Vendin-lez-Bethune, a little village a mile past Bethune. Left the horse at the lines and walked back again. An unfortunate shell in the 1st killed a sergeant and wounded two men; thanks to the strong emplacements the rest of the crew escaped.
In the evening went around the batteries and said good-bye. We stood by while they laid away the sergeant who was killed. Kind hands have made two pathetic little wreaths of roses; the grave under an apple-tree, and the moon rising over the horizon; a siege-lamp held for the book. Of the last 41 days the guns have been in action 33.
Captain Lockhart, late with Fort Garry Horse, arrived to relieve me. I handed over, came up to the horse lines, and slept in a covered wagon in a courtyard. We were all sorry to part—the four of us have been very intimate and had agreed perfectly—and friendships under these circumstances are apt to be the real thing.
From “In Flanders Fields and Other Poems” by John McCrae.
Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.
The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.
By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Ps 51: 16-17
Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. (Take a look at St Thomas’s Lady altar.) But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.
So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King!