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The Vicar writesJeremy Fletcher
The idea of the Bible Book Club is to take a book of the Bible and read it in the way you would read a novel or other nonfiction book. It feels odd, because we encounter the Bible mainly in short passages, either read out loud in church or studied paragraph by paragraph personally or in a group. When you read the Gospels as a whole book you realise that the last week of Jesus's earthly life is given so much attention by the Evangelists. These chapters offer us the story of the Passion, and every last detail is of significance.
It is a shame that the word "passion" or "passionate" has been devalued in much conversation. Every job application or CV talked about people being passionate about what can be the most trivial things. In a church context the passion is about the depths of suffering and the heights of love: God's complete self-giving in Jesus the Christ and the utter desolation of Jesus's death on the cross.
This Passiontide there are many ways of entering the Passion story at Hampstead Parish Church. On Sunday 7 April our children and young people perform their passion play around the churchyard during the 10.30am service. In the evening our choir, joined by a superb orchestra, offer Bach's St Matthew Passion, as an act of worship. On Tuesday April 9 Riding Lights Theatre Company perform The Narrow Road, an experience of worship and drama originally commissioned for Good Friday in York Minster and offered as an evening of reflection on the cross of Christ – it's free!
On Saturday 13 and Tuesday 16 April The Hampstead Players read The Dream of the Rood, a remarkable Anglo Saxon poem where the Cross speaks. On Palm Sunday (at 10.30am) and Good Friday (at 2 pm) the Passion narrative is sung by a narrator, with responses sung by the choir. On Monday April 15 at 7.30pm we observe the Stations of the Cross, taking time to reflect in prayer on the suffering and death of Christ. On Wednesday April 17 at 7.30pm we will sing and pray Tenebrae, the ancient service reflecting on the passion by the extinguishing of candles.
And, of course, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday have their traditional observances before we celebrate the joy of the resurrection on Easter Eve and Easter Day.
I hope you will be able to reflect deeply on the passion story this month, and will be able to take one or more of these opportunities to do so. There is something for everybody here, and we mark our commitment to Christ as we enter the depths of his suffering and are flooded with the light of his glory.
After all that, how could you resist the joys of the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Monday April 29? We will appoint Churchwardens and members of the PCC, look back at 2018, and see what is in store in the coming year. To take part you need to be on the Electoral Roll, and this year everyone must fill in a form to do so. Don't hesitate!