A message from Rev’d Stephen Edmonds – Palm Sunday
Date: April 5, 2020
*All glory, laud and honour / To thee, Redeemer, King, / To whom the lips
of children / Made sweet hosannas ring! / The people of the Hebrews / With
palms before thee went; / Our praise and prayer and anthems / Before thee
We are about to begin Holy Week in the most unusual of circumstances. Holy
Week is a journey, and we begin with the procession into Jerusalem on Palm
Sunday and conclude at the Empty Tomb on Easter Sunday. The liturgical
tradition that has built up around Holy Week is a drama – or perhaps more
like an opera with various acts.
True, it’s entirely possible to ‘listen’ to just the acts of Palm Sunday
and Easter Sunday, but without the intervening pieces – but so much of
the detail, the heights and depths are lost. In normal times I would
encourage you to join me for a daily Eucharist, with an acapella hymn and a
short thought for the day, but instead, I will ask you to listen to the
daily offerings via our website.
I find this week strange and powerful, even in normal circumstances. In
2005 I was invited to experience the drama of Holy Week at All Saints,
Margaret Street in West London. The daily commuting from South London up
into Town was tiresome, but it is fair to say that the worship and music
that they offered was closer to the Royal Opera House than a normal parish
church, and as an innocent young Methodist I found it a literally life
changing experience. Incense. The slow processions. Unbleached candles. The
cry of lament. Everything veiled in purple. *Tenebrae*. The rough wood of
the Cross. The new fire of the Easter Vigil, and above all the ancient
chant of the *Exsultet*, proclaiming the Resurrection: *Rejoice, heavenly
powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Rejoice,
O earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!*
Amongst other things, that week in 2005 eventually led me to Anglican
ordination, and in 2017, I returned from convalescent leave to preach the
entirety of Holy Week in Sydenham – in hindsight, a rather unexpected
rite of passage. Yet, now in 2020, to my delight and surprise, at the heart
of our worship, I find that St John’s uses the exact same words as Margaret
Street, but hopefully in our own rather more accommodating and
With my wife lending me her voice on occasion, eschewing the present trend
for video casting embraced by zealous clergy elsewhere, I am trying to work
out what works in this full and flavoursome week from a purely auditory
– Tomorrow’s readings and prayers – as attached below – contain the
standard four readings to chew over, but also the reading of the Passion.
It is quite long, but again it is part of the experience of inhabiting this
strange week. An online service will be available (hopefully from 8:30)
tomorrow morning with a short homily and intercessions. Also below you will
find our liturgy for spiritual Communion. Please join with us in prayer as
we celebrate Holy Communion here tomorrow morning.
– I hope to offer some short reflections on the gospel passages from
Monday-Wednesday, which fill in the gaps of the story from the entry to
Jerusalem to the Last Supper.
– Below, a letter and homily from the Bishop Richard of Kingston for you
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.
– At the start of Holy Week last year, on the 10th April, I was
interviewed for the role of Team Vicar. Fortified by a double espresso from
The Ivy Café, I was asked – amongst other things – to preach a short
homily on Palm Sunday. For nostalgia purposes, I attach the text below,
which presumably pleased some members of the panel.
– Reflections on the present crisis continue and I offer some for your
delectation: The Archdeacon of Hastings on the controversial decision to
close the churches (here
NT Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, on the present situation (here
<https://time.com/5808495/coronavirus-christianity/>). However, I think one
of the best responses so far comes from last week’s sermon (here
by Marcus Walker (Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield.). CoE
clergy are increasingly pleasantly dull figures, but Marcus revels in being
a larger than life Trollopian parson – but is also a trustee of the
superb Ankawa Foundation which supports displaced Christians in the Middle
East, which we made a donation to from our Christmas offerings.
– On our Soundcloud (here <https://soundcloud.com/stjohnswimbledon>) you
can continue to listen to daily prayer, but also Compline and the Litany.
– For those who prefer to embrace this week more through the medium of
music, one of my acquaintances– now in far off Texas – has put together
a list of pieces (here
all available on Youtube, taking you through this week, hour by hour –
offering us more music than you can shake a soprano at.
You continue to be in my prayers, and I shall be celebrating the Eucharist
each day this week. Please let me know if you have any specific prayer
I will write again soon with a little more detail as to how this week will
With kind regards,