Sunday, 10 February 2013

Mardi Gras Eucharist

This weekend - the last Sunday before Lent - St Mary Magdalen Belmont ran a Carnival Weekend. On Saturday, we had an All Age Activity Morning (10-12), and then on Sunday our main service was an All Age Carnival Eucharist.
This was something I've been thinking about doing for some years: I wrote an article for the Church Times in, I think, 2007 saying that this would be a good way to mark the contrast between feast and fast. I tried something similar in my final year of my curacy, at All Saints Heaton, which had a longstanding tradition of excellent holiday clubs started by a previous curate (Rick Simpson, now IME tutor in Durham Diocese).

On the activity morning, which was run rather like a Messy Church session, we had 6 activities, all linked by bright colours:

Colouring 'stained glass windows' (from the Yellow Moon catalogue)
Decorating biscuits (always a perennial Messy Church favourite!)
Making bunting (cutting out triangles of fabric, and I took my sewing machine over and helped them each have a go at sewing them onto the bias binding tape. This was VERY popular!)
Beading: making bracelets/necklaces/keyrings
Hand painting in an old sheet to make an altar frontal
Making paper flowers with the church flower ladies, and decorating the church with them.

At the end of the morning, the church was filled with colour. Most dramatic were the altar frontal and the bunting.

On the Sunday, we used our normal Common Worship Ordinary Time liturgy, but with a few specially written bits. These were on the pewsheet and a powerpoint for all to join in. The readings were those for the day, focused around the Transfiguration. We moved the confession to after the first two readings.

Prayer of Preparation:
God of celebration and silence,
Carnival and quiet, poverty and plenty,
We set this time apart for you.
Send your Holy Spirit on us,
To free our praise,
Inspire our prayer,
And transform our lives.

Almighty Father, whose son was revealed in dazzling light
And whose glory is revealed in all the colours of the rainbow,
Give us grace to see your glory
So that we may be changed to be like Jesus
Who with you and the Holy Spirit
Lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Readings: exodus 34:29-end
2 Cor 3:12-end

Prayers of Penitence:
For these, everyone had been given a scratch art carnival mask (again from the Yellow Moon catalogue. This was extravagant, at £3.60 per 10) as they entered church, to decorate as they waited for the service to begin. They were now asked to put on their masks, and after a brief introduction linking this with the readings we used this Kyrie confession:

We confess that we hide from each other,
behind masks of pride and achievement.
Lord have mercy.

We confess that we hide from you, Lord,
Behind masks of good works and reputation.
Christ, have mercy.

We confess that we hide from your call
Behind masks of possessions and comfort.
Lord, have mercy.

We then sang 'who put the colours in the rainbow?' as the gradual.
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

This began with a short powerpoint of 12 different images of the transfiguration - modern, icons,old masters and traditional and modern stained glass. He sermon then drew together the themes of:
Bright colours of the rainbow, dazzling whiteness - images of glory
Veiling- nakedness - glory.
Christmas - lent -easter mirroring this pattern.
Lent as a time when we, like Jesus, strip away all that might stop God shining through us. The image of us as being like Stained glass windows - our own glorious colours and patterns sine best when the light of God shines through us.
Gods glory ideally shines through us, and we allow it and dont get in the way.
Lent a time for stripping away veils, masks - what do we do that gets in the way of God shining through us?
Thats why we give things up - not because God wants us to be miserable, but to see whether some things are getting in the way of God shining through us. In our society, being comfortable, looking good, impressing others, being well thought of.

Intercessions (were done by the Beavers)

Introduction to the Peace:
Meeting one another in peace and love, "All of us, with unveiled faces, see the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror".

Eucharistic prayer G

Communion was taken down to the pews and, starting from the back, passed along the rows.
Post communion prayer:
Holy God,
We see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ,
Made visible among us in bread and wine, and in each other.
May we, who have shared in this celebration,
Shine like him,
Reflecting your glory
In all that we do and say.

At the 8am BCP service the sermon was a version of the same thing, but the BCP service was otherwise unchanged. Even so, several people commented that having the church decorated made them think afresh about what we were doing, which was very satisfying!


  1. I should add that the specially written bits of the liturgy draw on material from New Patterns for Worship, and were jointly written by myself and Karen Young, an ordinand at Cranmer Hall soon to be blessing Chichester diocese with her ministry.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Miranda, it sounds a lovely event and service. Lots of work, but lots of fun making meanings visible for people too. I don't know what my church did this week on Sunday as my placement is at the local hospital at present, but I'm pretty sure that it won't have been as exciting as this sounds. Your ordinand is indeed blessed to be with you.

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