Holy Week church-hopping and other items

posted by Mike on April 23rd, 2011

The day before Holy Week began, I attended a wedding at St. Columba’s United Reformed Church in Oxford, UK. St. Columba’s is down an alley near some of the Oxford colleges. It’s a normal sort of church inside, with a vestibule and facade that make it look like an office building.

Most churches stand out. St. Columba’s is hidden. Attending church there was like going to a house mass—nobody walking past suspects you’re going to a sacred gathering.

(Best wishes to the bride and groom—your lovely wedding is an auspicious start to your lives together.)

I attended Palm Sunday mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oxford’s Blackbird Leys neighborhood. The church had such a large congregation, and such a narrow door, that I actually had to stand in line to enter.


Pictured: Re-entering Sacred Heart after the outdoor blessing of palms.

As a teen lector, Palm Sunday was The Show, the big mass, full of quick glances from Father Ed Bell that said, “Don’t screw this up, kid.” This mass at Sacred Heart was quite the opposite, relaxed and occasionally chaotic.

I was back at St. Peter’s, my home parish, for Holy Thursday mass. Each parish only has one mass on this day. For a multicultural parish like ours, this means celebrating that diversity by including as many languages and musical traditions as possible in the service. One year I counted 14 languages on Holy Thursday at St. Peter’s. This year, I think there were 8.

I mentioned on the 508 show that St. Peter’s had a good conversation about race a few weeks back, and that the measure of such a conversation is not the quality of that conversation, but what comes from it. For his Holy Thursday homily, Msgr. Scollen described some of the race conversation for those who weren’t there, and outlined the steps to our becoming a “beloved community.” Holy Thursday mass is also marked by a large-scale and literal washing of each other’s feet mid-way through the service, so the topic of building friendships and serving each other could not have been more fitting. I was not the only parishioner very happy to see this follow-through on “the beloved community,” and I hope I have many excuses in the coming months to blog more about how people are making that happen.

זאָג כאָטש להבֿדיל

Zack Berger’s new book of English and Yiddish poetry, Not in the Same Breath, is out.

Scott in Afghanistan

Worcester Magazine profiled of Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, who’s just returned from Afghanistan, where he was meeting with youth committed to building peace.

Nonviolent Solutions

If you want to catch up with Worcester’s Center for Nonviolent Solutions, Brian Goslow published a profile of the group in, of all places, Fifty Plus Advocate.

Forming Habits

My Lenten habits went OK this year. Could have been better, could have been worse. It’s not that my Lenten vows are so strenuous—it’s that forming new habits of any kind is tough for me.

Leo “Zen Habits” Babauta, one of the more useful sources of info on habit-building, is putting together an online Habit Course, and I’m lucky to be one of the beta testers. I’ll let you know how it goes, and how the course stacks up.

“Song for Holy Saturday”

Following tradition, here’s a link to this poem by James K. Baxter.

My favorite Holy Week post

Andrew Sullivan says Yes:

Does a force exist that is behind everything we are and see and know? Is that force benign? Does that force love us? Was the only way that truth could be revealed was by God becoming man and sacrificing himself to show us the only way to save ourselves?

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