Good Friday and Holy Week

It was our turn, this year, to host the United Good Friday Service that takes place annually in Didsbury. We were joined by friends from Didsbury United Reformed Church, Didsbury Methodist Church, East Didsbury Methodist Church and Didsbury Community Church (Nazarene). About a hundred of us gathered to worship and to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus. We read the passion narrative from Luke’s Gospel, prayed together, sang, listened to music, and heard a powerful sermon.

Malcolm Sargent and Anna Wright called together an impromptu choir of singers from all the represented churches. They inspired us with a performance of The Mocking of Christ, words by Fred Pratt Green set to ‘The Third Tune’ by Thomas Tallis in Archbishop Parker’s Psalter (c.1567). (That’s the tune that inspired Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis.)

A sceptred reed, O patient Lord,
they thrust into your hand,
and acted out their grim charade
to its appointed end.
They could not know, as we do now,
though empires rise and fall
your Kingdom shall not cease to grow
till love embraces all.

We also sang together a new hymn for Good Friday, set to John Bell’s tune, ‘Resting’. I could not hold back a tear when I heard the choir rehearsing it before the service. It tells the story of the cross; you need the whole hymn really but a few extracts follow:

The climb is made and he has come
outside the wall,
he came in peace, in trust of God,
with love for all.
His body weakened by the lash,
the pain goes deep.
His friends have gone, fearing the worst,
the women weep.

We hammer him on to the cross,
both hands and feet,
we stand and jeer, and spit and curse,
our NO complete.
Our catcalls ring, no angels sing;
does mercy live?
and quietly in the horror sounds,
‘Father, forgive’.

And no one comes, alone he dies,
a despised end.
And was God there at all that day,
some help to send?
Christ dies and love alone has faced
the deadly power.
And love alone stands at the end
of evil’s hour.

O God of vulnerable love
. . .
You speak your word of love in Christ,
your whispered YES,
and by the wonder of this love
you save and bless.

We have been meeting every day in Holy Week as Brian and Jenny Haymes have been leading us in an hour’s meditation each day. The final one takes place tomorrow (Holy Saturday) at 5.30 p.m. If you are anywhere near Didsbury, you might want to join us. The events have been excellent and you would be very welcome.

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