Ash Wednesday

Priest, Deacon and Subdeacon standing before the altar

Priest, deacon and subdeacon standing before the altar, taken from Ceremonial Pictured in Photographs (Alcuin Club Publication)

This evening I was involved in my first Solemn Eucharist at All Saints’ Church, St Andrews, where I took the role of deacon during the liturgy of the imposition of ashes and Solemn Eucharist; my first Solemn Eucharist since I left St Andrews Cathedral, Inverness in 2003.

A moving experience

I found it a very moving service, and one that I was easily able to enter into without being overly distracted by where I should be or what I should be doing next. But that I put down to trust in my fellow ministers of the sacrament, the priest and subdeacon, who gently guided me and prompted me when required.

Like when I forgot to say the offertory sentence and just began to lay out the altar in preparation for the Eucharist.

“Offertory sentence,” Fr Jonathan prompted me.

“Oh! Sorry!” I said, pulling an apologetic face that probably made me look like I should be in a scene from Wallace and Gromit.

I turned to the congregation. And then back at Fr Jonathan. “What is the offertory sentence?”

He smiled. “Let us present our offerings to the Lord with reverence and godly fear.”

I turned back towards the congregation. “Let us present our offerings to the Lord with reverence and godly fear,” I said before returning to ‘setting the table’.

But I digress.

I found it a very moving service and a perfect start to Lent.

Our observation of Lent

I don’t have the words before me that were used during the service this evening, but here are similar words that I’ve used in Ash Wednesday services before, taken from the Church of England book Lent, Holy Week, Easter: Services and Prayers (Church House Publishing/SPCK, London, 1986):

Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection.  It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for Baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognize that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

What really spoke to me was the Hebrew Bible reading from the prophet Joel:

[12] Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

[13] rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing […]

[17] Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
“Where is their God?”‘

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1996)

The sentence that stuck out for me most was in verse 13: “rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”.

Rend your hearts not your clothing. Lent is about a change of mind, a change of heart. It’s an internal thing, not external. The external comes later, once the heart has been changed.

“Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.”

With those thoughts in mind I now feel prepared to enter Lent.

New SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website

Screenshot of SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website
Screenshot of SEC calendar and lectionary in Outlook website

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a new website to support the Scottish Episcopal Church calendar and lectionary files that I create every year. To support the files, today I launched:

I had intended to get this site launched over the Christmas and New Year break but… well, something about having toddler twin boys and a pregnant wife changed those plans.

What it’s all about

The CSV files allow you to import or subscribe to details of the Scottish Episcopal Church saints’ days, festivals and readings in your Outlook or Google calendar.

I also recently started adding an iCalendar feed, which enables you to subscribe to the calendar. The idea there is that if any of the details change then they get updated automatically.

I created the first file in 2005, for my own use both in Outlook and on my Psion PDA, I mentioned it to a few folks who were interested in it and have made it available on my blog ever since. But I felt that it deserved more than just a blog page, so I created this new website for it.

Features

The homepage of the new website (www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/secoutlook) updates every day to show you what today is in the liturgical calendar. It changes colour too to reflect the current feast day: gold, green, red or violet.

View the calendar shows an embedded Google calendar. It’s available to view in Week, Month or Agenda layouts. Click on any feast day information to show the readings for that day. (I’ve found this useful already.)

There are three pages showing instructions on how to import or subscribe to the files:

The Outlook 2010 page also includes screencast videos, recorded using the excellent Camtasia Studio.

The archive has links to every file that I’ve created.  Well, not every file… just the files to do with this.

Finding community at All Saints

High altar at All Saints, St Andrews
The high altar at All Saints, St Andrews (Photo from All Saints’ website)

This evening, after work, I presided at the 18:00 Eucharist at All Saints, St Andrews. It was a quiet, reflective service at the end of, for me, a pretty tough day.  It was, in the words of the Compline service, “a quiet night and a perfect end”.

Six of us gathered around the high altar, used the 1982 Scottish Liturgy, remembered David, King of Scots (1153) whose feast day it is today in the Scottish calendar, and prayed for the world, the sick and the church. A simple said communion service.

Formation of community

All Saints holds a special place in my heart, and in my formation as a priest, because it was the first place that I really experienced community, other than that of a whole congregation.

Between my first and fourth years at the University of St Andrews (probably sometime between 1990-1993) I would say Evening Prayer in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with three friends and colleagues at St Mary’s College: David Campbell, Clive Case and the late Simon Gould.

We used the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book which for me was a good discipline: an introduction to using an unfamiliar liturgy.  Some evenings we used incense, most evenings not. Fr Brian Hardy, the (church not university) Rector at the time, joined us when he could.

I very much enjoyed our community of four.  I look back with great fondness on those years and both the discipline that it instilled in me, and the structure that it gave my day.

Returning to community

Leaving full-time parish ministry in 2006 was both one of the hardest and easiest decisions of my life.  On one hand it was easy because there was much in that way of life that I found painful and uncomfortable, on the other it was difficult because so much of my identity and security was wrapped up in that role.  (Letting go of that and learning to trust God more was an important step.)  The decision to leave took me about two years to make. There were many tears on that journey.

What I did miss most over the next four years, however, was feeling that I belonged to a particular Christian community.

Starting in 2006 and extending through to early 2010, I covered services at Newport-on-Tay quite a bit.  They were a lovely congregation to worship amongst and I found that time to be in many ways a healing time for me.  But when they got a permanent priest I took a few months out to decide what to do.

It was actually my involvement in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Provincial Youth Network summer camp at Glenalmond College in August that inspired me to start attending All Saints again.  And Fr Jonathan who’d been offering me an altar to celebrate before for the last couple of years once again invited me to get involved… and here I am.  Six services in and already I feel like I belong. Thank you saintly people of All Saints.

Preparing the electronic version of the SEC Calendar and Lectionary

SEC calendar in Excel
SEC calendar readings being compiled in Microsoft Excel 2010

Update

Calendar and Lectionary 2010-2011 now available to download.

Original post

The Calendar and Lectionary of the Scottish Episcopal Church is a document that offers two things:

  1. A list of all saints days throughout the year.
  2. Readings for Sundays, weekdays, festivals (saints’ days) and special occasions (both Eucharists and daily prayer).

Each year the Church produces a guide to the calendar and lectionary which keeps mortals like you and me correct.  The Sunday readings are on a 3 year cycle (next year is Year A), while the daily prayer readings and daily Eucharists are on a 2 year cycle (next year is Year 1).

Once you add in saints’ days, and start translating saints days to adjacent days because they clash with feast days of a higher order, it all begins to get a bit complicated.

Outlook

Since 2005 I’ve provided these dates and readings (in various degrees of completeness) in a digital format that allows users to import them directly into Microsoft Outlook.  Outlook requires a simple Comma Separated Values (CSV) file which can be prepared in Microsoft Excel (other spreadsheet applications are available) with the appropriate information in them:

  • Subject (The name of the day)
  • Start and end date
  • Start and end time
  • Whether it’s an all day event or not
  • Description (Readings)
  • Priority
  • Sensitivity
  • Show time as

For the last few weeks I’ve been preparing the files, sitting for hours in front of my computer typing in line after line of readings.

Getting prepared

Most years I do it in a bit of a last-minute panic and end up creating a bespoke file specifically for that year, but this year I wanted to be organised and produce something that can be used year after year.

So this year I’m creating a master Excel file that contains all the readings for each combination of three year and two year cycles:

  • A1 and A2
  • B1 and B2
  • C1 and C2

plus a comprehensive master list of saints’ days, which should in future enable me to compile the files in just a few days rather than 4-8 weeks as it does at the moment.

Progress

I’ve just finished entering all the readings for the entire church year—from the first Sunday of Advent to the Week of Proper 34 (Christ the King)—and tomorrow morning will start on the readings for festivals, common saints’ days and special occasions.

Then I’ll be ready to compile everything for this year.  For once I may even be done by the start of the church year (which is this coming Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent).

Import SEC dates and readings into Microsoft Outlook (2008-2009 version now ready)

Outlook

Update: Correction of readings for this Sunday – new version now uploaded

Friday 20 February 2009 — well, that wasn’t a great start! I’ve just noticed that the readings for this Sunday were incorrect in the original version. I’d mistakenly entered the readings for the Sunday of the “Week of Proper 7 (Sunday between 18 and 24 Feb)” when it should have been the readings for the Sunday before Lent. Apologies.

The uploaded version is now correct. Apologies for any incorrectly preached sermons this coming weekend!

Well, it’s only taken me about 3 months longer than I had meant it to — which funnily enough coincides with how old my twin sons are! — but I’ve finally completed the mammoth task of compiling the import files that will provide you with the saints days, festivals, Sundays and readings for daily eucharists and daily prayer within Microsoft Outlook (and your PDA if you sync it with Outlook).

Versions

Current version: 2008-2009 version 2
Released Friday 20 February 2009

As last year I’ve created three files:

  1. Standard
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, but details of no readings (my usual file).
  2. Sunday readings
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, and readings for only Sundays and Major Festivals.
  3. Complete
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, and readings for all Sunday, Festival and Daily Eucharists, and Daily Prayer readings, as well as new for this year: which Daily Prayer set to use (e.g. Week A, Week B, Festivals, Incarnation, etc.).

Readings

In the “Complete” version, the readings for ordinary saints days and lesser festivals are simply those for that day of the week in relation to the previous Sunday rather than specifically for that minor saint/festival. For example, the readings given for Colman of Lindisfarne (Friday 18 February, today) are those for the Wednesday after Epiphany 6.

In other words, I’ve used only readings from The Lectionary and the Readings for Festivals, and not those from elsewhere or from the Readings for Special Occasions or Common Readings for Saints Days.

Download

Download your file of choice on the Saints and Festivals of the SEC in Microsoft Outlook page.

Report all errors

As always, if you spot an error please let me know so that I can fix the source file for other users. Thank you.