On the first five days of Holy Week, we had an average of a dozen people altogether attending two daily Eucharists, one at noon and one in the evening with a short address less than in previous years when people from all the congregations of Central Cardiff Parish gathered together to observe Holy Week. I can only hope that the daily Holy Week attendance in Cathays with their new priest was sufficient to show an overall increase in the total numbers attending. In the end that's all that matters, as many people as possible sharing in the re-telling of Christ's Passion.
The pattern of numbers attending our Good Friday Three Hours vigil at the Cross was identical to previous years - forty at the first hour, thirty at the second and fifty at the third, overall around seventy people passing through. It's quite consistent, even the same familiar faces of parishioners, and others from around the city who come because they always come to St John's on Good Friday, plus, inevitably a handful of visitors, this year notably young Asians - there are quite a few Christians around in Cardiff, from South India, working in advanced computer programming.
One thing that was very special for me was the appearance of Lynne at the last hour of the Vigil. She was one of the handful who came up and venerated the Cross. I've been preparing her for Baptism for the past two months, although our conversations about this go back into the end of last year. After some discussion, she opted to be Baptized at the Easter Vigil, rather than wait until a Confirmation service some time around Pentecost. I was delighted with this, as an Easter Vigil Baptism is something of a rarity these days.
Saturday evening, a dozen of us gathered at St John's, and settled down to wait in quiet until it was dusk, about half an hour. We kindled the Easter fire out in the porch, and processed into the darkened church with the Paschal Candle. There being so few of us, we stood in a circle around the Candle for the proclamation. Then, after the Epistle and Gospel only (we left out the multitude of OT lessons, in favour of the time of silence together), we circled the font in darkness, holding our candles for the declaration and renewal of baptismal vows, before taking Lynne through the waters and presenting her with a huge baptismal candle to keep. The look of light in her eyes as she stepped down from the font was unmistakable, something I've only ever seen in the eyes of adults and children old enough to know what's happening. It doesn't belong to this world. I think it explains why the writer of Hebrews could use the metaphor 'enlightenment' to refer to Baptism.
A very special Easter gift.
Easter Sunday morning was a joyous occasion with around sixty people attending, and a party to follow in honour of Percy's eightieth birthday. After Evensong, I worked out I'd taken twenty services and given eighteen addresses (seven during the Three Hours) over the past eight days. In a city parish one has to cater for both the core community, who tend to want to gather in the evenings, after work hours, and the 'passing trade' of people visiting the city centre during work hours. It has to be both, and it's a tough assignment for one person single handed. Amazingly, the virus that has been pulling me down for the past three weeks, only made life unpleasant, it didn't knock me out. So I survived. This time.