The last winter day of 2016, was chilly, windy, and rainy, pretty much what we expect for weather here in the Diocese of New Westminster. However, that didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, as enthusiastic congregations gathered in parishes all around the diocese for Palm Sunday worship.
Some parishes moved their Liturgy of the Palms procession indoors, and others went out into their neighbourhoods, loudly singing “Hosanna in the highest”, and/or the appropriate favourite - “All Glory Laud and Honour”. This year, diocesan communications paid a visit to the 8:30am congregation at St. Anne’s, Steveston, which was where Bishop Skelton was spending her Palm Sunday. Please click the link to access a Facebook album containing a few photos from the 8:30am service.
In her homily at the early service in Steveston, Bishop Skelton examined the meaning of St. Luke’s telling of the Passion of Our Lord with a focus on how the message relates to those who prefer to fight their battles and conflicts with love and understanding, never resorting to violence. She examined the elements of pacifist and conscientious objector movements and how those methods of dealing with violence are rooted in the Passion story of the Gospels.
By 9:15am it was time to head south to the beautiful South Surrey nieghbourhood of Ocean Park to participate in Palm Sunday worship with the Parish of St. Mark. The rector, the Reverend Craig Tanksley with the entire faith community were warm and welcoming. It is apparent to the visitor that they really enjoy worshipping together. St. Mark’s is an inter-generational community so there are lots of folks from different age groups, and that produces a special kind of energy. By 9:55am, the parish hall was filling up and the palm fronds for the procession were being distributed. Craig stood up on a chair and invited the group to prepare for the Liturgy of the Palms. In a surprising burst of organization dozens of folks of all ages quickly formed into a processional line in the parish hall. The Liturgy of the Palms was celebrated followed by the singing of the Procession Chorus:
Hosanna! Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!
Lord we lift up your name
With hearts full of praise;
Be exalted, oh Lord my God
Hosanna in the highest!
It was a joyful procession that concluded with the young of the parish gathered at the chancel railing singing supported by Director of Music, Annabelle Ip punctuating the Hosannas with tambourine strikes.
After the singing of verse one of the Gradual Hymn, “Prepare the Way O Zion”, three groups of readers assembled in the chancel to read the Passion of Our Lord according to Luke. After the reading of the passion, a homily was shared by interim priest associate, the Reverend John Mash.
Rev. Mash began with an observation about an opinion in Christian circles that "Anglicans don’t take the Bible seriously." He pointed out that today’s lectionary disputes that opinion for prior to the homily the congregation had heard 158 verses of Scripture, therefore “Anglicans do take the Bible seriously.” He affirmed that he always takes the Gospel for his text because he is searching for, and wanting to share “good news”. The Gospel for this Palm Sunday is 113 verses so people have suggested to him in the past that he should just say, “the Gospel is the message” and then sit down. He quipped that this would be easier for him and certainly easier for the congregation.
When Rev. Mash prepares a sermon he reads the Gospel out loud several times in hopes that a verse, or a word, or a concept will “jump out”. The verse that jumped out at him were the words that Jesus says on the cross, words that only appear in Luke’s version, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For Rev. Mash this entreaty is about “second chances”, and when you look at the entire Gospel text through the lens of “second chances” you will find that there is evidence of many. There is: a penitent thief; Peter is told he will deny Jesus three times but he is still invited to return and strengthen the movement; Herod and Pilate get a second chance to build a relationship; Barabas goes free; the Centurion realizes that Jesus is innocent and will experience the world with a fresh perspective.
We are constantly given the opportunity to make our confessions to God and receive a second chance. Jesus died according to the rules of the physical world but then he rose three days later giving birth to the Kingdom of God, of grace, hope, mercy, kindness and love. A second chance for all of us.
There is a Facebook album of photographs chronicling the Palm Sunday worship at St. Mark’s, please click the link to access.
At St. Helen’s in Point Grey, a very special concert took place at 2pm on Palm Sunday. A young Iraqi man, who had grown up in Syria and come to Canada as a refugee from that country performed a concert. The young man’s name is Farooq Al-Sajee and he is a virtuoso of the oud, a middle-eastern stringed instrument, similar to the lute. St. Helen’s director of music Kevin Zakresky became aware of Farooq’s presence in our greater community and brought his skill to the attention of St. Helen’s rector, the Reverend Scott Gould. Plans were put in place for a concert which would be in the form of a solo recital, however this evolved into something more. Reverend Gould is guitarist, vocalist and songwriter in the music group Songs With Friends, which consists primarily of Anglican musicians.
Songs With Friends were looking at performing a concert (they perform two or three times a year with proceeds being directed to various charities associated with the church) so it was decided that they would invite Farooq to perform as a soloist and also with them. The word got out about this unusual but wonderful way of welcoming and the story of the concert was featured on CTV Vancouver’s main newscast at 6pm. Please click the link to access the clip.
Diocesan communications has currently shared some Facebook photo albums from churches around the diocese who took their Palm Sunday processions outdoors and captured the once a year worship event in images. Please click the links to access the albums from Holy Cross Japanese Canadian Anglican Church in East Vancouver and St. Hilda-by-the-Sea in Sechelt.