Friday, May 2, 2014

Easter Without the Church

Lincoln Cathedral - what a sight!

by John Campbell, Dean's Verger, Lincoln Cathedral - Lincolnshire, UK [email protected]

Behold, "...the old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfills himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

- with apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson.

I left school in 1969 and straight way enrolled in catering college and entered into a love affair with food and all things culinary and epicurean.

The catering was a demanding profession. By 1976 I had changed track and entered into parish life followed by a sideways move in 1978 into cathedral life and thus in the past forty five years I have worked / been on duty for every Easter season. That is until this year, 2014, when I was informed that I needed surgery and it was scheduled for 16th April, Holy Week, the day before Maundy Thursday! I was given ten days to bring all preparations, rubrics and instructions together and on Tuesday 15th April following a service for the blessing of oils and the renewal of baptism and ordination vows I abandoned my team. For the first time in thirty six years I would not be in church [on duty] for Easter.

Some might relish the thought; some might be thrown into despair, others might contemplate ‘Easter without God’ and be horrified.

This year I may have had an Easter without church [saving one brief encounter] but certainly not one without God. With the help of telecommunications, internet technology, and social media I was able to connect with God and his people of the global village in which we live.

Recorded television afforded the opportunity to experience Allegri Miserere with Harry Christophers and the Sixteen on Maundy Thursday.

Good Friday provided me with Live TV from South Shields [in the North East of England, the cradle of English Christianity and my homeland]. The Great North Passion, a retelling of the last hours of Jesus life, was a community project during Lent.  Twelve communities were each given a shipping container. Schools, churches, community groups, individuals… worked on subjects covering pain, bereavement, unemployment, homelessness, fear. Each container, used in a unique way, was brought together on a headland overlooking the North Sea and formed a live, open air, contemporary Stations of the Cross. Music-modern, classic and local; dance, drama, silence and words brought all of the elements of the cross into ordinary people’s living rooms. This was contrasted later in the day when I linked in [live] to the Good Friday Liturgy from Christ Church Cathedral Nashville via YouTube and the twelve words of Dean Kimbrough’s sermon were worth a thousand of others. "Our sin – His nails, our pain – His blood, His death – our life."

On Easter Eve the TV brought words and music from Kings College Cambridge [Byrd, Mozart and Vaughn Williams set cheek by jowl with Sassoon, Herbert and Donne] in the ’Nine Lessons and Carols’ mode. Later in the evening the reassuring ringing of Great Tom [the largest of the cathedral’s 21 bells], heralding that Christ had risen, from the liturgy of the Paschal Vigil within called to the outside world, to me, and to all in Lincoln.

With an early start on Easter Morn, struggling out of my sick bed at 0645, Pauline and I made it [all 30 yards] to the 0800 BCP [1662] communion service where the faithful early birds ended the liturgy with a unique offering of ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’.

Then home for breakfast before tuning into live worship from Leicester Cathedral with its multi-cultural service, which included colorful and meaningful [eastern] liturgical dance, followed at noon by Urbi et Orbi – the Pope’s live massage to 150.000 faithful gathered in front of the Vatican and to countless unknown out in the world.

All of this was peppered with the occasional further dip into liturgy at Christ Church Cathedral Nashville. Helped by the social media which is Facebook, I was taken to the National Cathedral Washington and St Marks Capitol Hill.


So I find that at Easter 2014 I was able to flit in and out of that great and varied tapestry which is the church and finding God at every turn.

Normally I use the church as a nest: to stay, settle and grow. This Easter I seem to have used it as a perch to rest a while, among screen and pew, from the [dis]comfort of my cushioned chair, resting before moving on - taking each spiritual experience with me on my ‘static pilgrimage’ from betrayal, the pain of the cross, the void of the in-between to the reality of the empty tomb.

Whether you minister in a nest or on a perch remember the Searchers, Settlers and the Seekers: those who are with you yet unseen.




Please share your stories about about your own verger ministry and experiences with [email protected].

Abstract: . John Campbell, Deans Verger at Lincoln Cathedral in the UK, and Overseas Liaison Officer for the Church of England Guild of Vergers found 
one really can celebrate Easter without church. His story is an inspiration. Read it to the last for a jewel you'll copy into your spiritual file.

1 comment:

  1. John, this is a great read and even better knowing you are doing well! Rich Sturges, Verger, St. Peter's Columbia, Tennessee.

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