Holy Week in a pandemic: Maundy Thursday

7.50am I am very aware that things will start to feel weird today. The last two Holy Weeks have been fairly quiet Monday to Wednesday. It’s mostly attending services, but not taking them, last minute prep, sermon polishing and batch cooking for the rest of the week. But on Maundy Thursday, we would normally have a service in both churches in which we remember the Last Supper, strip the altar and remove all decoration from the church. But that will not be happening today.

12.44pm We are back after a rather frustrating visit to Tesco for our weekly shop. After queuing for half an hour to get in, we got to the front door to hear that only one of us was allowed in. Other people might have known about the rule in this store but we didn’t and we were both allowed in last time we went. So Nathan took the list and I had a quiet 20 minutes in the car, which was, to be fair, really quite nice. We also got to have a good natter in the queue which we wouldn’t otherwise have had, so I am grateful for that!

6.20pm this afternoon I have pulled together, recorded and uploaded some liturgy for the next few days. I’ve also written a reference and sent some emails. I’ve just finished my tea (pizza) and Nathan has gone upstairs for Compline and so I shall make my daily lockdown call to my family.

8.20pm I love going outside on a Thursday night to clap for the NHS with our neighbours. What a great sense of community! In the first week, we lit the left over sparklers from my birthday and then last week Nathan’s driving instructor next door-but-one came out with an old fashioned car horn. Then tonight somebody let off a firework! It has really lifted my spirits.

It is so strange not to be in church tonight. One of my favourite moments of the year, as sombre and quiet as it is, is when the altar is stripped. I love the simple beauty of the the wooden table and stone church without all the decoration and distraction. It helps me imagine that meal that Jesus had with the disciples. There would have been nothing fancy about that table. It would probably have been a very simple room in which a meal was shared between friends, remembering all that God did when he led his people through the wilderness.

It’s that meal Jesus had that we so often remember in church. Jesus held out the cup and said ‘this is like my blood. It will be shed for you’. Then he took some bread and tore it. He said ‘this is just like my body. It will be broken for you. When you meet together’, he continued, ‘share bread and wine to remember me’.

So we, the Church, do just that. Well, we usually do just that, when we aren’t in lockdown. In church, we remember that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood was poured for us all. Regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, where we live, what language we speak, which century we were born in, Jesus died for us. Why? Because he loves us.

On Maundy Thursday, we remember his meal with his friends because he was preparing to die. It was the last meal he had before Judas betrayed him, before he was arrested, before Peter denied him, before he was put on trial, before the disciples deserted him and before he died. It was a pivotal moment, and that’s why we remember what Jesus did and what he said.

Tomorrow, we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. At Holy Trinity and St Michael’s, we usually gather in church, go out to the walk of witness in Formby village and watch local people perform in a passion play. Tomorrow will be very different to that but, I hope, no less poignant.