I am not a ridiculously pious man, despite my calling and present ministry. Indeed, some often claim surprise when they discover that do indeed have a spiritual side - a matter for concern perhaps, but not one that I lose sleep about just now. The fact is, I am a fairly normal type - maybe just not your typical rictus God-botherer.
Over the last few years I have been learning about something which, when expressed out loud as in the form of a blog post, seems obvious. Despite the impression of me that you may have formed if you read this thing often enough, I do not come from a heavily liturgical tradition of church. Indeed, my child-hood parish was a fairly straight-forward estate brick wigwam, blessed with a choir that could only sing in unison. I was not born into a bells-and-smells tradition - no: I chose it having tried other things first.
As I have grown as a Christian, I have discovered the simple truth about Passiontide, Holy Week and Easter: the more I put in the more I get out. In simple terms, for me it is an all-or-nothing thing.
As the Vicar, one of the things that I am required to do is to lay out the liturgical flow for the year. That I enjoy it and have something of a gift for it is besides the point (I am a crap preacher, so being good at something else is good). I sat in the immediate wake of a happy Christmas and made choices - not for me, but for the good people of Whitton, not least among whom are the worshippers at this here edifice. I pondered last year at the feed-back that I received after the first such sweeps of ceremonial formed by my vicarly hand, and it was good. It observed the very thing that I myself feel when I seek the Lord - that the more you put in the more you get out. This seems to be the plimsoll line for ritualist Christians.
And so I drafted the list of services between Palm Sunday and Easter. Upon emailing it, I could sense the gasps, but it was my sense that it was my job to take my people on a journey with Christ. Yes, it needed flavour above and beyond the purpose presented in the Story, so we had Healing on one day, Meditation on another and longer prayers on another. It struck me last year that different people come to different things, so Good Friday was an epic Whitton marathon (for me and the three others who did all of it) of more than nine hours of worship. Each was well-attended and often by very distinctive groups of people. However, it was also having an effect on me - this year I have done more than I have been party to or have lead in previous years and in simple terms - the effect of the entire story on me was yet greater than it had previously been. The more I did, personally, the more I felt connected.
My abiding memory of this year was being sat in the hall next to my wife watching The Passion of the Christ after a day of liturgising. She was weeping as the film ended and others were holding one another in consolation. For me, Easter 2013 will be characterised by people 'getting it', maybe for the first time. As I look back on the last ten days, I think perhaps more is more. How could anyone ever fully appreciate the joy and cost of Easter in just one visit?