I was speaking to a musician during the week who worships and plays the organ at a local Roman Catholic church. He kindly offered to play at St Francis if we ever needed an organist on days such as Corpus Christi and Ascension Day. Evidently, English Roman Catholic priests are encouraged to hold their feast days on the nearest Sunday nowadays as nobody can be arsed to turn up for church more than once a week (and for many Roman Catholics that once is on Saturday evening so that they have the whole of Sunday to go shopping or to the football, that sort of stuff). Of course, that's the direction we're going in in the Church of England as well. Twenty years ago every Holy Week service would be packed with most of the Sunday congregation turning up on, at least, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Nowadays, if a fifth of our worshippers turn up on a day other than Sunday, we regard it as a good turnout.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for the emergent church principle of providing worship opportunities for people at times and in places that fit in with their working lives, family commitments and the like. But I believe such an attitude can go hand in hand with a proper respect for the liturgical calendar. If people can arrange their lives around the ancient patterns of worship in the church, they should. If they are unable to because of the demands of our capitalistic, secularist culture then the church should arrange services to fit in with them. What I don't think the Church should do is fit in with the social activities of contemporary life. Attending church on Sunday and on major festival days should be the number one social commitment in the lives of Christians, not somewhere near the bottom of a long list beneath such activities as football practice, shopping and having a lie in. Mission to non-Christians is a different thing. In mission we should go out of our way. But signed up members of the faith should put the commitments of their faith before all other social commitments most of the time.

As this is probably my last Easter as a priest and as there's not much anyone can now do to me if I upset them, I have decided to do Holy Week this year as I think it should be done and damn tradition. I started today by completely ditching the Passion bit of Palm Sunday and going back to the Book of Common Prayer's template of today concentrating on Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I remember, when I was a kid, that Palm Sunday was a joyous day with lots of "Hosannas!" I also remember how intense the betrayal of Christ a few days later felt when shown up against the jubilation of Palm Sunday. The Catholic insistence on getting the entrance to Jerusalem over and done with before the service proper so that most of the time can be spent on the trial and crucifixion of Christ completely buggers up this stark contrast between joy and sorrow as you leave church on Palm Sunday feeling just sadness and guilt.

So there was no Passion Gospel at St. Francis this morning (if they want passion they shall have to turn out on Friday). We started off with the blessing of the palms and procession into the church. But we had no gospel at the palm blessing, in stead we had the Palm gospel at the usual gospel spot in the communion service. I preached the sermon that I posted here yesterday, said Palm Sunday prayers and used the Ambrosian Palm Sunday eucharistic preface that is based on Christ's entry into Jerusalem. It all went very well and the handful of people I'm still being civil to really appreciated it.

To top it all, and in an attempt to really upset the old fogeys in the congregation, I finished the service by getting the children to lead the congregation in singing the following:

I love the way it throws everything in together, linking Palm Sunday with easter morning. You've all, no doubt, heard of fusion cookery. Well, I'm into fusion liturgy.



  1. Well done MP. I thought for a mament there you were going to be bringing a donkey down the isle to…well, you know.

    I agree with your sentiments too. I hope you’re not soon a layman so as to not have to test your resolve about not lying in. (Did you get that? Lot of double negatives there.)

    What I mean is that I hope you’re still a bloody Mad Priest so you don’t get to lie in ya bastard!!

  2. he he good for you. I binned the Passion gospel on Palm Sunday a few years ago and haven’t looked back. I’ll look out the other resources you used.

  3. I think you *should* have brought a donkey down the aisle to…well, you know. What a hoot it would have been!

    So I’m really curious: where will you go to worship if not St. Francis, once you are no longer employed by St. Francis? Do you *have to* find a different church to worship in, are there rules about that?

    When our Unitarian minister retired, she couldn’t come to First Unitarian for worship, and I’m not sure where she wound up going; so far as I know, she hasn’t gone over to the church by the University of Central Florida either.

    I was just wondering.

    That girl in the video is so cute!

  4. My first Sunday in the Land Episcopal was on Palm Sunday four years ago, and I was very surprised to go from the “Triumphant Entry”, which is a very loud and boisterous event at St. Mark’s, Seattle, to the Passion. What? I don’t particularly understand the need for that since the remainder of Holy Week is well attended by members.

  5. I was in Washington DC last weekend and the Rector at St John’s (across from the White House) was discussing this very issue and what he was going to be doing in the Liturgy for Holy Week.

    Agree, doing the Passion in Palm Sunday doesn’t seem right.

  6. From a discussion at Father Bosco’s it seems that long ago, last Sunday’s reading would have been the Passion. So today’s reading would have been strictly the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

    If you go to Padre Mickey’s blog you learn how much work it is to do a proper Triumphal Entry!

  7. We had a donkey in the Palm Procession a few years ago — he carried saddle bags of palms — no one would ride the little beast because he passed clouds of gas.

    Despite urging he wouldn’t go into the church, thereby saving the day.

    Every year I try to move the passion out of the Palm Sunday Liturgy and every year I lose. We still do the Passion at noon Good Friday, and we leave it in Palm Sunday.

    On Good Friday we will also do the Via Crucis in the evening to a setting by Liszt.

    This year the Great Vigil will be at our Mother Church across the river, which is celebrating its Bicentennial with the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori as celebrant and preacher.

  8. YEA! I’d LOVE to dump the passion on Palm Sunday. And while we’re at it, Easter Vigil on Saturday. I see no sense in crucifying and raising Jesus twice each year! Why bother with Holy Week services if he’s already dead or Easter if he’s already out and gone. grump.

  9. Good for you. We have to stop crucifying Jesus on Palm Sunday unless we want to start teaching that Jesus was in the tomb for seven days… Loved the song.

  10. with the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori as celebrant and preacher.

    May I suggest that this would be the perfect occasion to have another go with the farting donkey?

  11. I hope this isn’t your last Easter as a priest. I hope and pray that your future and the path to take become clear. Good luck with the rest of Holy week.

  12. I think I’m slowly coming round to similar thinking about Passion on Palm Sunday. I ditched it this evening and was quite glad of the change. Next year I shall go back to the Palm Sunday celebration I remember as a child.

    As to the Easter Vigil – we don’t proclaim the resurrection at that – I leave them with the Markan Gospel ending – an empty tomb and people running away frightened and confused. The explanation comes in the morning.

  13. Priesthood is not dependent on employment. None-the-less I hear you and it hurts. We prayed for you and Mrs. Priest at mass this morning.

    The movement of the passion reading to Palm Sunday was purely pragmatic — people do not hear it otherwise because they do not attend the holy week services anymore. When I was young we had a different service every day of holy week and we went to all of them. Now if we are lucky some come on Holy Thursday.

    Piskie, could not agree less. Make the Easter morning the minor service. Vigil should be the major event.


  14. OK if the vigil is at dawn, JimB. Was Jesus in the tomb only a measly 30 hours or so? How long is it from Good Friday afternoon to Saturday evening? I always wondered about the three day bit we were taught.

  15. LOVE the song, even with its fusion liturgy. I think it’s much more appropriate for Palm Sunday than the passion gospels. I started out all happy this morning, going in with palms & hymns, then went out grumpy, thinking, “Why, why, why?” Why are we still trying to merge Palm & Passion lessons? I’ve heard more than a few people remark on this.

    Hope you’re still an employed priest next Easter, able to continue the best use of liturgy. Will you be revisiting Dante for the harrowing of hell liturgy? Look forward to that–maybe. WV is brammate: a friend from Birmingham or writer of Dracula?

  16. The vigil is supposed to start at midnight. The liturgy takes place in the streets and in church and runs through to dawn when the resurrection is celebrated. It’s just that Western Europeans are too lazy to stay up all night. The Orthodox and Coptic churches tend to do it properly and from what I hear from the Indians in my congregation, they have great fun.

  17. MP, I really don’t believe that it will be your last Easter as a priest – unless you have decided it will be. But even if you have, I suspect God might have a few words to say about that.

  18. careful now – you may one day soon be relying on my good graces if you decide to take up that option of freelance journalism and I end up seated in front of one of your articles. Be nice now, and I’ll be nice then

  19. my predecessor was just one step from Rome, so he followed Roman custom of transferring everything to Sunday (and that included not just Ascension and Corpus Christi, but also St. Mary and half a dozen other saints’ days).

    the altar guild has already thanked me for reducing by half the number of times they have to change the frontals on the high altar.

    But getting people out for a mid-week festival is difficult. We had 25 for Ash Wednesday and I expect about 30 for Maundy Thursday (compared with Sunday attendance of 90). Part of the problem is people’s busy lives, part is that we are a destination church, and some of our members travel a half hour or more to get here, and that’s especially hard in evening rush-hour traffic.

  20. No. I mean I don’t intend to do stand in work for the Church. They’re not getting me on the cheap and it would be too painful anyway.

  21. Mr Brunson, I was hoping not to have to do this during Holy Week. But for that awful pun, WOULD YOU KINDLY LEAVE THE STAGE, sir.