When we wandered about Bath Abbey after the tower tour on Thursday evening, we saw a few display boards around the church (and copies of ‘Why Jesus’ in a few languages). The one introducing the East Window read:
The Abbey’s main purpose is to live and tell the good news of Jesus Christ as recorded in the bible and retold in the panels of this magnificent window. The one panel which is key to unlocking the meaning of the others is near the top, in the centre. It shows Jesus on the cross, on the day we remember as Good Friday. Jesus’ life and death demonstrate that it’s when we love God and others, above all else, that we find our true identity, purpose and joy. You can discover more about Jesus Christ and about the history of the window by talking to one of the stewards or Chaplains on duty. Our prayer is that we will all learn to follow Jesus daily, as friend and Lord.
Feeling encouraged, we went to the service on Sunday first thing in the morning. I’m going to give a full account of what the service was like in Bath Abbey – it’s annoying, but I couldn’t help registering every practical detail of running a Sunday service. For those working in the same profession, it might be some interest to you. For all my other readers, you might want to stop reading now. I promise the next post will hopefully be more fun than this.
The service needed booking online by Saturday night, limited to 60 people. We were a bit surprised at the small number seeing how enormous the Abbey was, but it felt about right on Sunday, especially given the choir stalls were having work done. There were congregation members as well a large number of visitors. It was not immediately obvious which was which. The service was streamed online live and there was a dedicated pastor ministering the online side of things.
Chairs were put out individually as well as in groups of twos and threes and longer rows. A few older ladies at the door ticked us off and ushered us to two seats. Service sheets were placed on chairs, a 12-page stapled booklet printed in-house on plain 80gsm white paper (font type Calibri size 11?), including brief notices, COVID guidelines, all song lyrics, full Bible readings and creeds etc. No flyer fell out.
An older woman already sitting down said morning to me behind the mask. Service started soon. A choir (all wearing black) walked in with the clergy (in bright green robes).
It was a Holy Communion. Wafer alone was administrated. Everybody went up to the two clergy when invited to receive a piece of wafer. The first hymn was ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ and the last ‘Jesus the name high over all’. The readings were from Joshua 24 and John 6. The woman who did the preaching looked a bit like Kristyn Getty, I couldn’t quite see – when she was in the pulpit she was a long distance away, when she was at the door she had a mask on.
The notice in the middle of the service mentioned that a new organist would join them soon, who was starting a degree in IT in Bath. Also, they were opening up back to full FIVE services on Sunday from September and they would like to hear from people who could lead prayers during the service. Training would be provided. I was most delighted to hear that they seemed to have the same headache filling the prayer rota.
We left quite quickly after the service finished, feeling slightly sad not knowing anyone and seeing no tea or ice lollies (not even retro ones). And that concluded our brief visit.
May Bath Abbey, truly be ‘the Lantern of the West’.
Photo by A Day of Small Things.