I received a number of Easter cards from people, for which many thanks if I haven’t yet written to you. In the one I got from Enid, she’d written a note in, and mentioned how from my articles she’d read, I seem to be getting about to different places. This month has been no different. There is an organisation called the Westminster Faith Exchange, which is run by Westminster City Council. People of all faiths are invited to attend, to hear a talk or to be involved in discussions on any number of things. It meets once a quarter, and I’ve been to two of the meetings since I got here. The meeting at the end of March was a very interesting meeting, the speaker, the topic and the venue!
The meeting was held in the Speaker’s Chambers of the Houses of Parliament. We had to go to Portcullis house, which is on the opposite side of Bridge Street to the houses of Parliament. After waiting a while to go through security, Andreas and I were led by a policeman along a passageway, and before long I realised we were under the road of Bridge Street (which leads from Parliament Square to Westminster Bridge) and in a moment we came out underneath St Stephen’s Tower (the tower of Big Ben). We were then pointed in the direction of a door that would lead to the Speaker’s Chambers! The staircase was the grandest staircase I’ve seen! The passage ways and corridors were wonderful, and then when we got the grand chambers, with huge fireplaces, beautiful plasterwork and wall panelling were wonderful to see.
The speaker for the evening was the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. She was speaking on faith in politics, and I found her to be a really interesting person to listen to. I was just a tad disappointed that the length of time that it had taken to get through security meant that we missed the start of her talk. After the talk and questions, we were able to look around the rooms. In there, is the bed in which the monarch sleeps the night before the Coronation, which was good to see. It was also a peculiar feeling to look out of a window at Westminster Bridge, rather than being on Westminster Bridge looking at the windows!
The better part of April was taken up with preparations for Easter. We had a number of services here at Saint Matthew’s. On the Wednesday of Holy Week, we had a Synaxis service, (which has been a service of prayer we have held once a month) based on a service called Tenebrae, which was interesting to learn about. On Thursday we went to the Chrism Mass at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, which was really good. The Bishop preached a good sermon, the point of which was that we are quite often bothered with the problem of starting at Omega, and looking back. But with God we are just at Alpha, and should look forwards. It was a really good service, and the thing that put the icing on the cake, was that Frank Williams, (the actor that played the Vicar in Dad’s Army, was sitting behind us!).
On Good Friday, we joined the Crucifixion on Victoria Street, which was a procession of Christians from Methodist Central Hall, to Westminster Cathedral and back to Westminster Abbey, so it was a collection of Methodists, Church of England and Roman Catholic people all together. The event started with readings and prayers at Central Hall, and then the procession set off lead by two men carrying a large wooden cross. It was such a moving experience, and brought home the solemnity of Good Friday, when all these hundreds of people walked down Victoria Street, in silence!
Holy Saturday (which was also my birthday) was spent cleaning the church, and then in the evening we went off to Saint Paul’s for the Easter Vigil service, with baptisms and confirmations. Easter Sunday began very early, with St Matthew’s Easter vigil at 6am, followed by breakfast in the dining room, and then back into church for 11am!
Our pastoral assistant, Andrew, has been writing his "Andrew's Travels" column in his Parish magazine for three years. He continues to contribute and his current articles will be published here.