Sunday, April 12, 2009

My heart overflows with joy

I have just completed my first Easter as a minister. Having only arrived in my congregations in the middle of Lent, there wasn't a lot of time to plan for Easter worship, look at themes, or arrange anything that I considered particularly creative, but despite that, it's been a wonderful Holy Week and Easter celebration. Because of the number of congregations I have responsibility for, I have been a tad peripatetic during Holy Week, leading Palm Sunday worship at Myrtleford, Maundy Thursday evening at Yackandandah, Good Friday at Myrtleford, and Easter morning at Beechworth and Yackandandah.

On a dark and cold Thursday evening, about 8 of us gathered in the Yackandandah church, to celebrate a simple Maundy Thursday Eucharist and Tenebrae service. It was a special time, as we turned off the lights, and began extinguishing the candles, as we followed the shadows of Jesus' journey to the cross. When the final candle, the Christ candle, was extinguished, the church was in total darkness, and all was utterly silent. It was a confronting and special moment as we sat in silence in the dark together before quietly leaving without the usual social chat that follows Sunday worship. As I was packing up after people had left, one of the congregation leaders told me that as he drove one lady home, she commented that she found the service deeply moving, and wouldn't have missed it.

On Good Friday, we had a number of visitors in Myrtleford, and spent a time of worship slightly more reflective than usual contemplating the cross and what it meant for Jesus to endure it, and die. A slightly "Vicar of Dibley-esque"
communication mix up regarding the starting time of this service advertised in different places didn't seem to detract from the worship which was solemn, without being overly dramatic or "slash-your-wrists-depressing".

But of course, the crowning glory was the celebration of the risen Christ this morning. I left home at 6am to arrive on the rock overlooking Beechworth in time for the 6:30 ecumenical dawn service. A group of 50-60 people from the combined churches of Beechworth, and some visitors to
the area gathered to proclaim our joy in the risen Christ.

As part of this service, two crepe paper crosses, suspended by helium balloons (see the photos) were released, with a note on them explaining what they were, and inviting whoever found them to contact the churches to let us know where they ended up. One of the crosses released yesterday during the Beechworth Golden Horseshoes festival parade landed about three hours later, in the grounds of an art gallery in Bright.

After this, I celebrated worship and Holy Communion at the Beechworth church, which was interesting. I often find when I'm leading worship that it's hard to gauge how it's going, and whether the worship hits the spot for people in the congregation, but today, after the Beechworth service, I was buzzing. A number of people expressed how much they appreciated the service, which included a visual presence and an explanation of some of the symbols of the resurrection, and I got more and more excited as the service proceeded, as the reality that "Christ has risen, he has risen indeed!" infected me anew.

When I arrived in Yack, to lead worship there (using the same liturgy and sermon; well, as much as any sermon can ever be the same twice), I commented to the church organist that I reckon the Yack folks were pretty lucky today, because after already leading this worship at Beechworth, I was seriously excited and 'pumped' for their service, even more than I was earlier in the morning.

So, despite being now utterly exhausted after a hugely busy week, and day today, I am still excited, and utterly high on the thought of what a privilege it is for me to get to lead this worship with these amazing people on this special day.

Whilst I'm really looking forward to a day off tomorrow, I'm jumping out of my skin with excitement. Have I mentioned before how much I love this job? :-)

Monday, April 06, 2009

more photos

Some more pictures, from my first Sundays at Myrtleford and Beechworth churches

The classic "mother-daughter shot" taken on my first Sunday at Myrtleford.

Arriving at Beechworth to lead worship, with bolt-cutters in hand. No, I didn't need to storm the barricades after resistance from the locals to the new minister, just returning them to a couple from Beechworth who loaned them to someone at Myrtleford last week. (but seriously, shouldn't every girlie minister have a pair of bolt cutters, just in case? :-)

The 'meet and greet' after church. I look like SUCH a minister!

Moment passed... oh well. (The Vicar of Dibley really is my role model :-)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Around Myrtleford

I figured it's about time I posted some pictures of the local scenery. More will come, including some pics of Beechworth and Yack, but this first instalment is around Myrtleford.

Welcome to Myrtleford!
This is the scene that greets you as you enter town, coming from Wangaratta on the Great Alpine Rd.

The Big Smoke!
Tobacco was a major industry in Myrtleford up until Phillip Morris pulled out of the area a number of years ago.

The recent bushfires had a significant effect on the local area. This is a common sight along the Yackandandah Rd at Mudgegonga, where the foreground is untouched and green(ish) and you can see the skeletal remains of the burnt out treeline along the ridge of the hill.

Here are the remains of a house burnt out in Mudgegonga on the Yackandandah Rd.

Already, regeneration is starting, as new life sprouts out of charred, burnt trees.