Tag Archives: Easter

5 June: Reflections on the Mass, I, Christ Truly Present

Canon Anthony Charlton recently wrote six reflections on the Mass which he published on the website of Saint Thomas’ Church, Canterbury. we are glad to take up his invitation to share them with you a little later than the Easter season he prepared them for. They are also relevant to the days leading to Corpus Christi.

Thank you, Father Anthony!

A new word came my way when I became deputy director of the Christian Education Centre in the late 1980’s. The word was ‘mystagogia’. It comes from the Greek word meaning ‘to lead through the mysteries’.

The Catechism describes mystagogy as a ‘liturgical catechesis that aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ’ (CCC 1075). It is the time after Easter Sunday when those who have been baptised as adults reflect and review the mysteries they have experienced when they were baptised, confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time.

It can also be an opportunity for all of us to deepen our understanding of what it means for us to be baptised, to celebrate the Eucharist and to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. This time between Easter and Pentecost is of great significance for all of us.

So this is an ideal time to reflect on one of the three sacraments, the Eucharist, which is ‘the source and summit of our Christian life’. I want therefore to reflect on the actions of parts of the Mass. The Jesuit, Gerald O’Mahoney, wrote a small book some years ago entitled: ‘The Mass from Start to Finish’. This is what I want to do in the next six weeks of the Easter season: to go from start to finish.

It begins even before we sing a single note or say a word. Our Mass begins with the Gathering of the people. The first liturgical act is when we assemble as Church. By coming together on a Saturday night or a Sunday at St Thomas, we are affirming our true identity as sons and daughters of God. We are not just being present at Mass, we are celebrating Mass. Celebrating is the action of the whole assembly. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says:

‘In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal priesthood, so that they give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial victim not only by means of the hands of the priest but also together with him and so they may learn to offer their very selves.’ (no: 95).

This is what we are doing; offering ‘the unblemished sacrificial victim’ with the priest — and we are offering ourselves to God. As you prepare your family or yourself to come to Mass, your celebration has already begun. The orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann says that ‘the Eucharist is not one of the sacraments or one of the services, but the very manifestation and fulfilment of the Church in all her power, sanctity and fullness’. Christ is really and truly present with a congregation of a few souls, or a congregation of hundreds of people. Every gathering is a manifestation of the Church and embodies the presence of Christ.

I like this sentence written by Jim McManus:

‘As we enter the sacred assembly the first person there to meet us is Jesus. When we start to assemble, we are not just waiting for the priest to come out and begin Mass. We are already gathered as the Church, with Christ in our midst. We are the Church because Jesus Christ is in our midst, uniting us as one body, his body.’

So when you next come to Mass, think about how you are actively present as a member of the Body of Christ, right from the time you enter the Church building, and prepare yourself accordingly for the gathering.

Door of Mercy, Zakopane, Poland,


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21 April, ‘I’m going fishing’ II: We are going with you also.

The sea is still dangerous despite modern technology

They said to him, ‘We are going with you also’.

We are at the end of John’s Gospel, and have joined the disciples who are about to go fishing with Simon Peter. 

I don’t think Peter had set out for a male bonding session. He does not say, ‘Is anyone coming fishing?’ No, it’s ‘I am going fishing.’ Are the others concerned that he will go the same way as Judas? Are they clinging to his company because despite it all, they recognise him as their leader? Perhaps a bit of both. John looks at James, an imperceptible nod from his big brother, they are Peter’s working partners after all. They, at least, have every right to say, “We are going with you also.”

The fishers among the disciples were attuned to the ways of the lake, and would have known how to steer by the stars to where the fish were likely to be. The others were perhaps a liability in the boat, not knowing where to sit to be out of the way, perhaps apprehensive for their own safety, remembering the story of Jesus sleeping through the storm in this very craft. Tonight the storm was in their hearts.

The storm in Peter’s heart would normally have abated as the physical side of the job took over his being. There was the task in hand: with John or James preparing the net for casting, together throwing it overboard without snagging it on Nathaniel or one of the unnamed passengers, catching the wind to drag the net towards a feeding ground for the larger, saleable fish, hauling in the net, inspect the catch or lack of it, repeat, repeat, repeat.

And catching nothing.

By morning Peter is exhausted from a night’s activity that challenged muscles that were forgetting how to fish. No doubt the non-fishers wanted to try their hand; they would look to him to teach them, and as well as instructing them he was constantly trimming the boat to keep them safe. He is once again the leader. We can forgive him for not recognising the stranger on the shore.

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20 April,‘I’m going fishing’ I: The Group of Seven

trout (27K)

A Gallant Trout from The Compleat Angler.

I The Group of Seven

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.”  John 21:2-3.

We are in that period of forty days between Easter and the Ascension of the Lord. The reality of Easter has not yet struck the disciples – has it fully struck me yet? They have got one thing right by obeying the angel’s command, given through the women: go to Galilee and I will see you there. This group of seven disciples, led by Peter, seem to have come together by the Lake in solidarity. They are still shaken up.

I wonder if Peter wanted to go fishing by himself? I used to fish when I was at college by Lough Macnean in Ireland. Sometimes a group of us would spend a day together fishing. Other times I wandered down to the shore alone, and then the routine of casting a bait and watching for the float to bob was hypnotic; thoughts would slow down, I would be refreshed whether or not I caught anything. 

I see Peter rooting in a compost heap and filling the First Century equivalent of a plastic tub with worms, thinking, ‘I need some headroom, I’ll have a night on the boat, just me and my rod.’ He had too many thoughts running through his head, processing all that had happened since Palm Sunday. Crowds cheering, a quiet, solemn meal, silence in the garden. That kiss. Cock crow. Betrayal, rigged trials, Death on a Cross, Judas’s suicide, the appearances in Jerusalem. 

Now the apostles were waiting by the lake, as the women’s message had told them to, but nothing was happening. Except that they were getting under each others’ skin: ‘I need some headroom.’ 

But they said to him, “We are going with you also.” 

That would be a totally different experience to going alone, yet Peter could hardly tell the others to get lost, he was supposed to be their leader. As well as respecting that, I wonder if they were not a little anxious about Peter’s safety in the dark on the lake, alone with his thoughts.

So he went to fetch the nets, still thinking, ‘I need some headroom.’ But he stood scant chance of getting it. Andrew, Peter’s brother, seems to have made himself scarce already; he is not mentioned in this story. Perhaps the brothers were wary of each other’s company, knowing they could set each other off. Perhaps Andrew was the last person on earth who could comfort or counsel Simon Peter.

How often do we find the precious ‘five minutes’ peace’ we had contrived for ourselves – over coffee, in the garden, even working in the kitchen – invaded by our dearest, dragging us back to the realities of daily life. How do we cope when we need headroom and are denied it? Peter accepted that other people needed him and went to get the nets.

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19 April, ‘Believing Thomas’: John 20: 19-31

This is Rev Jo Richards’ Sermon for 16 April, Easter 2 Year A; Thank you, Jo.

The solidarity between Thomas and the other disciples shown above is something we will revisit tomorrow and over the next few days.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit

Just imagine for a moment that we are all in here, we are afraid, because three days ago Jesus had been crucified and we are feeling vulnerable – the authorities might be out to get us, as they had killed Jesus, and we fear for our lives. Mary tells us that the tomb is empty and she has seen the risen lord, but we don’t believe her…or do we?

Peter and the beloved disciple had run to the tomb on hearing the news, but it was only the beloved disciple who then believed; Peter did not believe that he had risen, nor for that matter did the rest of us

As we are huddled together, with all the doors locked, listening for every creak of a floorboard– Jesus suddenly appears, we are not quite sure how he got i, he must have just materialised from somewhere; goodness knows how. He then shows us his wounds on his hands and his side …. It was then that we really believed that standing before us is the Risen Lord with the scars of his crucifixion

Alleluia Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed Alleluia!

Today’s Gospel passage is located within a series of three post-resurrection appearances in this chapter…the first is our Easter Morning reading which we heard last week, when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the second is Jesus’ appearance to the disciples without Thomas, and then the third, a week later is Jesus’s appearance this time with Thomas present.

Thomas is often referred to as doubting Thomas…because he didn’t


believe the disciples when they told him that they had seen the Risen Lord, and he would only believe if he saw the Resurrected Jesus with his own eyes.

In fairness none of the disciples believed Mary Magdalene when she told them that the Lord was risen…and even when Peter saw the empty tomb, he didn’t believe; at that point, only Jesus’ beloved disciple believed that Jesus had risen.

So that label ‘doubting Thomas’ feels a bit disingenuous, for they all doubted, except the beloved disciple. And When Thomas saw he really did believe fully recognising Jesus as My Lord and My God.

So who was this disciple Thomas, who comes across as a rather down to earth matter of fact sort of person.

We first come across him when Jesus announced his intention to return to Bethany after receiving news of the death of his friend, Lazarus, all the disciples, except Thomas, tried to dissuade him, for it had been in Bethany that some Jews had tried to stone Jesus. Thomas, however, insisted that they not let Jesus go alone, even if that meant risking their own lives: “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11, 16).

We hear of him again during Jesus’ long farewell speech; Thomas was bold enough to interrupt, asking Jesus to speak plainly, instead of talking in the kind of flowery language that he clearly found baffling. Jesus was saying: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. . . where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” All this was too much for Thomas, who wanted things in plain speak and said: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14,5)

Then today’s reading when Thomas demands evidence of Jesus’ resurrection; and when Jesus did reappear he didn’t reprimand Thomas at all rather he simply invited him to set aside his doubts and believe. 

I wonder how many of us can identify with Thomas and might at times waver between doubt and belief? For certainly John’s Gospel tells us that the disciples needed proof of Christ’s resurrection, and they had been with Jesus for three years…but then we are blessed with the words from Jesus that says: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the Risen Christ, She shares the news with the disciples, but this was her experience, not theirs.

The disciples don’t really buy into it until they have their own experience of encountering the risen lord. They too became convinced and then share this news with Thomas, but he also doubted until he had had that personal encounter with the risen Lord….

Thomas wanted assurance and evidence. He also wanted Jesus and needed personal connection to dispel his doubts, and Jesus was ok with that…peace be with you he says to Thomas and the disciples

and so down the ages from that small gathering of disciples who encountered the risen lord, millions of people have come to faith and today there are over 2.6 billion Christians worldwide who believe in the risen lord.

Pause for a moment – how have you come to believe, or you may just be exploring your faith, or like Thomas have doubts until you have encountered the risen lord

We might catch ourselves wondering if the miracles in the Gospel actually happened. Perhaps we may have had doubts about the existence of God. Particularly when we may feel that God feels distant, especially when we need God the most…but God is there, always has been and always will be. Hebrews 13.5 tells us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is very much there in our difficult and challenging times, as well as those good and uplifiting times.

Jesus doesn’t reprimand Thomas for his doubts, nor does he reprimand us – but what he does say at the end of today’s passage: these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is messiah and the Son of God

But we are all on a journey of and Jesus meets us in that place – in that place of doubt and in that place of certainty….for like the disciples we are all human.

In the end, it’s not Thomas’s “doubting” that matters; it’s his believing. Everybody doubts; not everyone believes.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

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18 April: A mission not a club.

A queue for covid vaccinations at Lichfield Cathedral, early in the pandemic. Photo JB.

A third post about institutional religion and its mission, by no means irrelevant to Eastertide. We are in Lichfield, where the Dean, Adrian Dormer, is retiring after 17 years. Congratulations to him! Here he shares his thoughts on what a cathedral is about and what it should be aspiring to bring to its local community and the world. He refers back to Saint Chad, the humble missionary who founded the diocese in AngloSaxon times and discerns some of the challenges facing his successor.

Worthwhile reading for Synodal minded Catholics as well.

Permit me a ‘Moses moment’.  Moses ended his days pointing the children of Israel towards the promised land.  He reminded them to live as God’s people, to face up to the challenges they would face, always to have God’s priorities as their priorities; to be joyful in the blessings they had received and the blessing they were meant to be in the sight of all nations, never to forget God.  (see Deuteronomy 30: 11-20)  Let me share some thoughts.

Cathedrals are complex places with many people to serve and many roles to fulfil.  Lichfield Cathedral has an international, national, regional and local profile.  (Look at the people who join us for online worship – we stretch from Gaia Lane to Toronto and Lahore).

We receive (in good years) 200,000 visitors.  It could be double.  Ah! If only the colleagues in Local and National Government could wake up to that fact, work with us closely and provide a bit more infrastructure for signage, way-marking, marketing and good constructive planning.  It just needs intention and will.  It would have knock on effects for employment and business.  Equally, some guaranteed national support for repair and conservation of Cathedral buildings will safeguard a precious heritage and cultural asset.  In my view this is a ‘no brainer’, but I admit my brain doesn’t work as others do!

At the beginning of my time in Lichfield, the Cathedral Chapter and community discerned five roles played by the Cathedral.  These were and are:

  1. Cathedra – the name for the Bishop’s seat.  (We’re a ‘Cathedral’ because we house the ‘Cathedra’).  This comprises our set of responsibilities to the territory our Bishop oversees; it is the place to gather the Church, where the Bishop ordains and sends forth ministry, a place for him to teach and to send us all out in mission. 
  2. The Cathedral is an Icon – it speaks of the love and glory of God.  It is also a deeply emotional way-mark for many people – it captures a sense of home, place and memory, pointing us all to our home in God.
  3. A Cathedral is a place of tradition – it sums up a part of national history, but it bears the faith from generation to generation, every age making its mark and contribution, the faith being proclaimed afresh in every generation. 
  4. A Cathedral is a community.  Just as Jesus Christ called and gathered and sent disciples out to teach, preach, pray and heal, we’re called by him to be a community of missionary disciples, not simply a conventicle of the like-minded or the same class, age-group or outlook.  Loving and bearing with one another, getting our faults and blind-spots corrected and healed is an essential work of the Church as community. 
  5. A Cathedral is a border-land.  We’re a place of dialogue, innovation, hospitality and solemnity.  Though our events and activities we’re here to help dialogue about things of lasting importance, to widen vision, to help society understand itself and face up to challenges and need.  Because a Cathedral is open and accessible, many people feel able to touch the Sacred because they know the place is common ground.

Now this bit of discernment is, of course, up for refinement, revision or reworking.  Tradition always demands a serious coming to terms with the needs of the hour and the signs of the times.  Without that essential awareness, we become a preservation society not the Church.  We’re a mission not a club.  Looking around us at the moment, I think that in the short, medium and long term every Cathedral, and Lichfield can be no exception, has to address some big challenges (1) the environment and the climate emergency; (2) how racially and socially inclusive we must become; (3) how we have to nurture children and young people; (4) how we help society to re-discover a sense of justice and opportunity for all people; (5) how we keep and develop our buildings so that they are appropriate for our mission and role.

How to start?
First, ensure people of faith are glad of their faith and have confidence and joy in it.

Secondly, remember small steps on a mass scale bring about big changes – looking after the environment, cutting back waste, nurturing bio-diversity can all be revolutionary.  Life is not at its best if viewed as a Darwinian struggle, it becomes Christian when we live fruitfully and fraternally, humbly and hopefully with one another and the land.

Thirdly, we have to keep a view of the Church being trans-generational and inter-generational.  We have responsibilities to understand what every age group has to go through.  How can we serve one another?  We need to devote more resource to children and young people, make room for young families in our worship and activities and help the young with their life decisions, in their growing sense of self and personhood.  Equally, as we freshly re-claim the legacy of St. Chad, helping one another to health, giving support in sickness, disability and times of pain, bereavement or isolation, becomes vital ‘Kingdom of God’ work.  We might need to train and learn a bit more to be of help, or learn to make ourselves available.

Fourthly, we are living at a time when the ground is shifting.  What kind of wisdom can we bring to the sense that not much works – a health service rapidly unravelling, social care and ageing left unaddressed, sluggish responses to the climate crisis, and a housing crisis for all to see.  Living a good Christian life cannot be abstracted from the concerns of so many.  We have masses of Christian social teaching on these questions.  Don’t be dismayed by the Press when it lampoons those Christian concerns – they are the ignorant ones, knowing neither the Bible nor the Christian tradition.  Be aware of press bias and whose interests they serve.

Fifthly, people need beauty.  Our Cathedral and Close refresh the parts other places don’t.  Treasure this gem of a place.  To make it even more user-friendly we still need an ancillary building to the Cathedral to bring together our welcome and hospitality, cloakrooms, loos, café, shop, storage and exhibition space.  Let’s keep exploring the options.

As I take my leave, please accept my huge thanks and appreciation for all the interest, support and prayer you and so many others give and have given to the Cathedral.  Please go on giving it!  There’s a splendid team of Clergy, Staff and Volunteers doing extraordinary work: please encourage them.  Give the Interim Dean, Bishop (and Canon) Jan McFarlane the backing and help she needs (although in one so competent, you’ll have the assurance that it is business as usual and probably better!)

I am aware of all of those who have gone to glory during the past seventeen years and I thank God for so many lives of Christian faithfulness, generosity and service.  This memory can encourage us to stay joyful in hope, steadfast in trouble, and persistent in prayer.  All God’s saints cheer us on our way, be glad in their company. 

I pray that you will always live deeply in the mystery of Jesus Christ’s dying and rising.  It is the source of our salvation and the best news the world has ever heard.

Please pray for Caroline, our grown-up children (who have had a great time in Lichfield) and for me.  I’m sure retirement will be lovely – but it will take some getting used to.   All advice welcome, but I plan to have a good rest and not take on too much too soon, thereby correcting the bad habits of a life-time. 

With my thanks, prayers, love and blessing,

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13 April: The reason to love God by Saint Bernard

Bishop Erik Varden sent his Coram Fratribus readers to read this obituary of a Cistercian monk, originally from Hungary but who was forced to migrate to the USA because of Communist repression. Our extract is from the last part of the obituary and was chosen by us to share Saint Bernard’s ‘puzzling’ words of wisdom.

Enjoy puzzling over them, and enjoy the account of Father Roch’s life of service.

Fr. Roch lived out one of those puzzling expressions of St. Bernard which he so loved reminding
his students could only be appreciated in the original language:

Causa diligendi Deum, Deus est; 
modus, sine modo diligere.

The reason to love God is God himself; 
the measure in which to love him, is to love him without measure. 

In his zeal for souls Fr. Roch strove to love without measure and to give himself fully, because he believed that only the free gift of love could truly open the human soul to itself,to others, and back to God. With the unflagging zeal of a true apostle, he handed on what he himself had heard and experienced.

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10 April: Eternal glory

O God, creation’s secret force, 
yourself unmoved, all motion’s source, 
who from the morn till evening ray 
through all its changes guide the day:

Grant us, when this short life is past,
the glorious evening that shall last;
that, by a holy death attained,
eternal glory may be gained.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
may every tongue and nation raise
an endless song of thankful praise!
Saint Ambrose of Milan composed this simple hymn, appropriate for Eastertide with its reflection on a holy death and eternal glory. I wonder what would make a holy death? Or unholy? Accident victims and those who die in their sleep or of a massive heart event we can but commend to God, ‘creation’s secret force’ who can grant eternal glory to whomsoever he will.

The photograph shows the ancient Baptistry beneath the present day Cathedral of Milan, discovered in the 1950s when the metro was being excavated. Notice that it was a proper pool with room for total immersion. It has eight sides because Jesus rose on Easter Sunday, the eighth day of Holy Week. We are baptised into his death and resurrection,as was Ambrose, in this pool, and at his hand, Augustine.

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9 April: Did it Rain that Morning?

Did it Rain that Morning ?

How did the sun rise that morning?
Did it roar into the sky?
Did it dance, throwing its flames across the void?
Did it rain?
Surely it rained?
A penetrating April deluge,
Short, sweet, cleansing.
Penetrating like grief,
Like relief.
Did the wind blow?
With no-one to feel it lift the dirt, the dust,
Sweep clean,
Prepare the way.
The sun at darkness’ end.
The lightning, thunder.
Fit entrance to a forgiven world.

Fit entrance for a Prince, a Lord.

Did the birds and the creatures rejoice together?
The flowers tremble,
Their perfume astonish?
Till all ablaze,
You stepped forth
Accompanied by Angels,
And went your way, about your world.
Until the women came,Looking,Peering,Anxious,Worried.
All was calm again by then,
Nothing untoward,
Except that you had gone to Galilee

And left a message with an Angel.



I make no apology for republishing this Easter poem from our dearly departed poet, Sheila Billingsley who died last October. It is full of Easter hope, joy and wonder.

The Easter garden was at Canterbury Cathedral before the masons took over this site.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Laudato si', Lent, On this day, PLaces, poetry, Spring

Fair Trade Easter Eggs

Want a quick way to make Easter Eggs-tra special Maurice?With this great selection of Fairtrade Easter eggspicking up an ethical egg is especially easy this year.

ETHICAL FAIRTRADE EASTER EGGS Whether you prefer white, dark or milk chocolate, this egg ensemble has something for you. There’s even organic options and a pink gin flavoured chocolatey treat for adults!Pictured: Tony’s Chocolonely Easter Eggs Assortment.

 Just one of a number of Fairtrade Easter options available this year.

What does Fairtrade mean for cocoa farmers?Let’s ask Bengaly Bourama, Fairtrade cocoa farmer, Côte d’Ivoire.

‘We have been able to build a school, accommodation for teachers of the school. We have renovated the hospital… all of this with the Fairtrade Premium. Without Fairtrade we wouldn’t be in this position.’ Bengaly Bourama, Fairtrade cocoa farmer, Côte d’Ivoire

FAIRTRADE CHOCOLATE OPTIONS FOR EASTER More of us choosing eggs made with Fairtrade cocoa means power for farmers like Bengaly to drive positive change in their communities.So in the final few days before Easter, let’s go the eggs-tra mile and pick up an ethical egg made with Fairtrade cocoa.

Share on social media to spread the word – or just forward this email!
Many thanks,StefanCampaigns Team, Fairtrade Foundation

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Holy Week and Easter at St Thomas of Canterbury


Thursday 6th April, Maundy Thursday
No 7.30 am or noon masses 
10.30 am – 11.30 am & 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm: Reconciliation
8.00 pm – Mass of the Lord’s Supper: In Thanksgiving. 
After Mass – waiting at the Altar of Repose until midnight with Night Prayers at 11.45 pm in the Hall.

Friday 7th April, Friday of the Passion of our Lord
9.30 am: Morning Prayer
10.45 am: CTC Walk of Witness starts at Salvation Army
11.00 am: Children’s Stations of the Cross in the Hall
1.45 pm – 2.45 pm: Reconciliation
3.00 pm: The Passion of the Lord – Solemn Liturgy. Reading of the Passion, Veneration of the Cross and distribution of Holy Communion
8.00 pm: Stations of the Cross with Veneration of the Cross. Reconciliation after Mass

Saturday 8th April, Holy Saturday
9.30 am: Morning Prayer
10:30 – 12:30am: Reconciliation
11.30 am: Polish Blessing of the Food in the Church
8.30 pm: Solemn Easter Vigil in the Holy Night – People of the parish, refreshments will be served after Mass in the Hall

Sunday, 9th April, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord Masses: 8.00 am, 9.30 am, 11.00 am and 6.00 pm.

Upcoming Events
On Palm Sunday, 2nd April, the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral invite members of other local churches to join them for the Liturgy of the Palms at the Yeomanry memorial, High Street, (outside the old Nason’s store) at 10.45 am as a joint act of witness to the city, after which we will continue in our separate churches. All are welcome. Bring your palms to be blessed.

Easter Celebration, Sunday, 9th April at 10.20 am – 12 noon. Teas and cakes (donations welcome on the day). Quiz trail and activities for the children.
We need helpers on the day. If you can help please contact the social committee at socialstthomasrc@gmail.com. All are welcome.

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