Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Easter week. We had a procession. Those of us able to, met outside the church with large palm branches and processed around the church, singing a hymn. As we got further away from the sound of the organ and the choir disappeared around the side of the building, I was suddenly surrounded by about 12 different versions of the tune, so I found my own and stuck to it. Then we went back inside and were given little palm crosses.
Andrew, our very cool young vicar, always gives a good sermon. He is concise and funny and relevant and finds the connection point to today’s world and he makes me think. When he was asking us to put ourselves in the place of the disciples, watching the thousands of people celebrating and cheering Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem, he reminded us that these were a people under oppression. That no matter how much they sang and waved, they were ever mindful of the fear of displeasing their Roman masters, and of how much they wanted Jesus to be the one who would deliver them from the Romans. He connected this back to today’s world when whole countries still suffer oppression and when we all go through times of feeling submerged in grief, worry, fear and anger.
It’s a very lively church, lots of kids and young people and lots of activities, choirs and groups for all ages, from Bible study to Tai Chi and music for pre-schoolers. Every Sunday morning Andrew invites all the children up to the front and blesses them before they go off to Sunday School and then when they come back, he often brings them back and asks questions and gives them the microphone so they can tell us what they did and learned. “I love Mum as much as my dog” and other little gems. They come up to communion and get blessed and feel very comfortable in church. We have a blind parishioner with a gorgeous golden lab guide dog called Utah and the dog gets blessed at communion too. It just has a great, warm, community, inclusive, alive atmosphere. The Spirit of God is alive in our Church.
The other thing I absolutely love about it is the fact that it is our family church. My Great-Grandfather helped to build it and he and his wife and 14 children worshiped there. Mind you, there was quite an age spread so some of the children were grown when the younger ones were growing up. He married at 42, to a younger woman, and had 14 children! I sit and look at the gorgeous wooden interior and stained glass windows and carvings and dedication plaques and know that he sat and looked at them too….and so did my Grandmother when she was growing up. My Mum was christened there and confirmed there and married there. I often imagine her wedding day as she and my Dad, in his Air Force uniform, stood in front of the altar where I take communion.
Both Mum and I will take part in the three-hour vigil service on Friday, we will each be a character in the reading of the Passion story. It will be a privilege to help bring the story to life again. Then on Sunday we will rejoice in one of the best services of the whole year. I went to Sunday school as a child, I went to a church school and we sang hymns at assembly each morning, I went to the Holy Trinity Cathedral as a teenager and was involved in the very formal life of the Cathedral, I joined a Pentecostal church for a few years as a young adult and spoke in tongues and was baptised in water, then for many years I didn’t go to Church at all. I filled the hole inside with unsatisfying, secular things. Now I’ve reclaimed my Christian faith and I love going to Church and I love praying and I love trusting God to answer my prayers. In so many many ways I have come home to St Andrews.