So, I’ve been recommended for training for ordination in the Anglican Church and I’m going to be studying a BA in Theology and Ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham from this Autumn. All exciting stuff! I’ve been sent a pre-course reading list to work my way through this summer.
This is where you might be able to help me:
- Which of the books on the list below do you think are essential reading?
- Which one book would you recommend I read before starting my course? (it doesn’t have to be on the list!)
- Do you have any of the books on the list that you’d be willing to lend or give to me?
- Do you have any other tips on what to do before I go or even what to take with me? (I’ll be a weekly boarder)
Feel free to leave a comment below this post or email me. Thanks so much for your help. Now, which looks the easiest to read on that list…
View on Amazon here (I made a wish list in case a random stranger wanted to buy any of them for me!): http://www.amazon.co.uk/registry/wishlist/2SCFN5BXYKNU4/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_o
Steve Croft & Roger Walton, Learning for Ministry (Church House Publishing, 2005)
Steven Croft, Ministry in Three Dimensions. Ordination and Leadership in the Local Church (DLT, 1999) – READ THIS ALREADY! YAY!
Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God : Rediscovering the Old Testament (Cowley , 2001)
Richard S. Briggs, Reading the Bible Wisely: An Introduction to Taking Scripture Seriously (Revised edition; Wipf and Stock, 2011)
Michael Lloyd Café Theology (Alpha, 2005)
Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past? (DLT, 2003)
Jean Comby, How to Read Church History (2 vols, SCM, 1985, 1989)
Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Eerdmans, 1993)
John Pritchard, The Life and Work of a Priest (SPCK, 2007) - READ THIS ALREADY! YAY!
John Barton & Julia Bowden, The Original Story: God, Israel and the World (DLT, 2004)
Richard A. Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus? (2nd ed, SPCK, 2005)
N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus (SPCK, 2000) – I’VE ALREADY GOT THIS ONE, HAVEN’T READ IT YET THOUGH
T. Grass, Modern Church History, (London: SCM Press 2008)
Mark Mckintosh, Divine Teaching (Blackwell, 2008)
Bob Jackson, Hope for the Church: Contemporary Strategies for Growth (Church House, 2002)
Stephen Spencer, SCM Studyguide to Christian Mission (SCM Press, 2007)
David Day, Embodying the Word: A Preacher’s Guide (SPCK, 2005)
Paul Goodliff, Care in a Confused Climate (DLT, 1998)
Judy Hirst, Struggling to be Holy (DLT, 2006)
David Runcorn, Spirituality Workbook. A Guide for Explorers, Pilgrims and Seekers (SPCK, 2006)
Magnificat – Vocation’s song
It was the feast of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth yesterday. This recalls the beautiful story from Luke’s gospel of Mary’s trip to see her cousin and on seeing Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby jumps in the womb, she has a burst of praise that ‘the mother of her Lord’ is visiting and Mary responds with a song of praise, known to us as the Magnificat (which is the first word of the song when sung in Latin).
Last year I went on a vocations retreat organised by the Northern Diocesan Directors of Ordinands (DDOs). Bishop John Packer led the retreat and we focused on a number of different ‘calls’ in the Bible. The one that stood out for me was Mary’s. Bishop John pointed out that among many other things, the Magnificat, is Mary’s song of praise in response to the call God has given her to be the mother of the Christ. It’s a vocation song. For various reasons, this song has also become my own vocation song. I didn’t anticipate the sheer joy of discovering and responding to God’s call on my life. Often, when we think of vocation we think of sacrifice (giving up everything to follow), hard work and perhaps even isolation. Being on my own vocation journey (which won’t end until I die!) I have started to discover that it is also a thing of joy to know that you’re in the place God has called you to be and that it’s a gift from God.
Everyone is called by God
I met with someone recently who didn’t know me very well, she asked me what I was planning to do career-wise in the next couple of years and I told her that I was going to train to be a vicar. She said “oh! You have a proper vocation then!” This was really encouraging but belied the assumption that vocation is only either about the ministry or ‘caring professions’.
Everyone has a calling. I think, perhaps that one can have multiple callings as well – for instance, I have a calling to be a wife to my husband, an aunt to my nephew, a God-mother to my God-daughters, as well as everything else. All Christians are called when they are baptised, we all share a vocation to follow Christ. I read one book which suggested that perhaps Confirmation is a kind of proto-ordination – it is the point at which you are ‘ordained’ to serve Christ in your adult life and follow God’s calling.
So how do you find out what God is calling you to?
It’s all very well being told that we all have a vocation. We know our first calling is to follow Jesus. But we want specifics! This is often a modern Western hang-up I think - we say, ‘does God want me to live in this town and do this job?’ We get hung up on stuff like this because we have so much choice in the West. Most of the world’s population don’t have a choice of where they live and work – they’ve probably been born into the job that they’re doing.
So at the start I think vocation is less about the specifics of what we do and more about who we are: it’s about being rather than doing.
There are two things in particular that have helped me to discern my own vocation, one from within the church and one from without:
The first is Ignatian Spirituality – in particular the practice of the examen. That’s a lot of long words – simply put, St Ignatius developed some ways to help people develop their spiritual life, one of them was something he called the examen which is where you ask yourself two simple questions:
- What has brought me life today?
- What has drained me of life, and taken energy from me?
The idea is that you ask yourself these questions at the end of each day. You can also use the practice to look back over a year or a month or any period of time. Read more about this here. If you meditate on these questions it helps you to work out what kinds of activities and experiences really make you sing, and which leave you cold. This can help you to discern what God might naturally be drawing you to. To get started with this discipline I would recommend listening to this free mp3 ‘review of the day’ – it is 8 minutes long and involves music, some questions and gives you space to meditate:
The second is a book and questionnaire called Strengths Finder by Tom Rath. This is a model for discovering your strengths or talents. The premise of the book is that many development programmes at work focus on your weaknesses – ‘you’re not very good at negotiating so let’s send you on a course’. This, the book suggests, is not an efficient way to increase productivity and make people better at their jobs – the way to do that is to get people to focus on what they’re naturally good at: to focus on their strengths. There is a questionnaire that you take online alongside reading the book that tells you your top 5 strengths (out of 34). One of the things I like about Strengths Finder is that the likelihood that you’ll meet someone else with exactly the same 5 strengths as you are really slim (unlike Myers-Briggs in which you are one of just 16 personality types). The book contains examples of each strength operating in all sorts of people from nuns to marketing directors. I took the strengths questionnaire a few years ago and the results really helped me to understand myself better and what makes me tick.
The Strengths Finder is a secular business development programme but has resonances, I think, with Christian spirituality. Some of your strengths will directly correspond to your God given gifts – those talents that you were born with and also those spiritual gifts that have grown in you. We Brits are incredibly self-deprecating and we often focus on what we’re not good at. The Strengths Finder enables you to acknowledge ‘actually – I’m quite good at that!’
So these two things have helped, I think, in my discernment journey into realising that God was calling me to ordained ministry. My full vocation story is a lot messier than I’ve made out here. Discerning God’s will is really quite a murky business but I wanted to share a couple of practical things to do that might help – they’re not magic bullets – but if you work through them prayerfully God will speak to you.
I would encourage you, if you are unsure of your calling, to try out one or both of these things I’ve suggested and pray for God to reveal more to you about who he made you to be.
I’m currently in a bit of a strange ‘in between’ time in my life, preparing to go to theological college in October but still carrying on in my current job now. The last two years or so have been a bit of a time of waiting and preparing for me and I have been learning a lot about those two things.
Last year I got to walk a prayer labyrinth for the first time. What I learnt through this profound spiritual experience is really relevant to the space I am in now in my life.
- Maybe you’re in a similar situation – waiting for something to happen, for something big to change for you?
- How do we focus on what’s happening now and make sure we enjoy each part of the journey for what it is?
Here are some reflections I wrote last year on the prayer labyrinth:
Here is an image of the prayer labyrinth I walked.
There is only one path in a prayer labyrinth. There are no dead ends, it is one complete pathway that moves to the centre and back out again by the same route.
Some parts of the journey are short, and feel short lived – you find yourself sometimes not wanting to turn the corner. Other parts of the journey are long and exhilarating. Some parts feel dull and repetitive. The centre of the labyrinth represents communion with God. As I was walking to the centre I was longing to reach it. Interestingly, something I noticed was that although the centre of the labyrinth was a place to stop and be embraced by God, the spirit of God was with me throughout the walk – on the way to the centre and on the way out. I realised that my perception was that I could only ‘truly meet with God’ in the centre, when in actual fact, He was there with me all the time – behind and before me (like Psalm 139:5).
The whole experience was a powerful metaphor for the Christian journey. The journey we take each day, each year and the journey we take with God over the whole of our lives. I was amazed how the walk felt similar to a big hike up a mountain, with the hard bits, easy bits and ‘beautiful views’.
What I am going to try and remember from my experience is:
Communion with God is always available to me – I only have to open myself to Him and ask Him to come and be with me. After all, Jesus says ‘behold, I stand at the door and knock’ (Rev 3:20)
Jesus is with me always (Matt 28:20) – behind and before me. I am walking in His footsteps and He is right behind me – whether on the easy path or the difficult path.
If you get the chance to walk a prayer labyrinth, I would really recommend it!
To find out more about labyrinths and to take part in an online labyrinth visit: http://www.labyrinth.org.uk/
Following in the footsteps of some of my friends who have also been through the discernment process towards ordination in the Church of England, I thought I would share some reflections on what going to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel is actually like for anyone about to go to one themselves or just curious to know how it works.
The BAP (as it’s known – cue annoying sandwich jokes from people you know whenever you mention it) is the final stage of the selection process for applying to train for the priesthood in the Church of England. It’s a gruelling 2 and a half day residential ‘selection conference’. Before going you do get given information on what’s going to happen which is outlined here. Here’s my take on what it was like.
My conference was held at Shallowford House which is near Stafford (the other centre which is used is in Ely). I travelled there by train and I would recommend getting to a BAP by public transport as particularly on your way home, you’ll be in no fit state to concentrate on a long drive. Everyone told me to buy earplugs because this retreat house is right by a railway – I took some but didn’t need them in the end. Some of the rooms are en suite but unfortunately mine wasn’t!
My BAP was a ‘full’ one, meaning that we had 16 candidates – in two groups of 8 and each group of 8 had 3 Advisers (a mixture of lay people and ordained) with a Panel Secretary who ran the whole thing. It’s quite an odd experience because it’s an interview that’s not an interview – there is no competition involved – there is no quota of places but you are all being assessed. I suspect there is nothing that quite compares to this process!
On arrival you can settle into your room and then after tea and biscuits there is an ice breaker session designed to help you all get to know each other a bit.
Following this is the part they call the Personal Inventory. This is a 40 minute paper where you answer questions on the 3 main areas on which you’ll be interviewed: Vocation, Pastoral & Education. This is an opportunity to share things that perhaps you didn’t share in the massive registration form you completed before you went. What you write on this Personal Inventory is used quite a bit by the interviewers when they see you. It’s virtually impossible to prepare for this bit, but the best thing to do is just write the first thing that comes into your head in answer to each question. There are three short papers asking questions on education, pastoral and vocation – you spend about 12 minutes on each one.
Once you’ve done it you can forget about it though – it’s not really a test (although it feels like one).
After that everyone is given the pastoral exercise to complete – you have the rest of the panel to write a 500 word letter in response to a complex pastoral situation. All I would say on this one is make sure you write a pastoral letter – ie a friendly, warm one, in the most natural way you can. Mine was a blessing and a curse as it was very close to a situation I’m experiencing at the moment – so on the one hand I had already thought about the issues quite a lot but on the other it was a bit close to home!
Then it’s dinner and off to bed or the bar for a drink first (where the Advisers don’t hang around so it’s a bit more relaxing than you’d think).
This was the toughest day. All morning from 8.45am to 1pm you have the presentations in your two groups. You are each given a card with the number 1-8 on to decide the running order. I got 7 ! Then you have 2 presentations, a break and so on until you’re all done. The exhausting thing about this is that you are being observed throughout – in your presentation, the way you lead group discussion, the way you respond etc. So you need to be as perky for the first one as you are for the eighth! Fortunately, you’re all rooting for each other and it is actually interesting to see what each person speaks on – we had a nice mixture of topics although 5 out of the 8 chose ‘mission and evangelism’ for their criterion to speak about. Apparently sometimes people choose the same topic but this didn’t happen at my BAP.
I was utterly exhausted after all of that – I felt like I did when I was at university doing exams – really really tired but really wired at the same time! Fortunately they feed you well – we had a good pasta bake for lunch which settled me back down a bit!
Following lunch I had my first interview – the Education one.
The education adviser looks at Faith, Mission and Evangelism and Quality of Mind. Many people I’ve spoken to have said this is generally the toughest of the 3 interviews – and I would agree with that. I think they are trying to figure out if you can cope with some tough questions and hold your own. Mine was pretty tough, I was asked about the 39 articles(!) and also told to improvise a sermon about the ascension! It’s best not to talk to other candidates, however, about your questions because everyone gets different questions depending on what’s in their paper work so don’t worry – I happened to have the 39 articles mentioned in a reference which is perhaps why that came up. They will throw a curve ball or two at you. Try not to panic and answer as calmly as you can. I was glad this was my first interview – I got the hardest one out of the way first!
Later that day I had my Vocation interview.
The Vocations adviser looks at Vocation, Ministry in the Church of England and Spirituality.
I enjoyed my Vocations interview the most I think. It’s a chance to tell your story and for me didn’t feel like a test at all but just a conversation. The only advice I would give is be sure you can answer the question of what the role of a priest is – you’re likely to be asked that and need to be able to give a good response. (I have to say, I found the book ‘On being a priest today‘ absolutely brilliant preparation for the BAP – a must-read).
On Wednesday I only had one more interview to go (people have their interviews scattered at different times over the two days). So I spent the morning writing my pastoral letter and then went to the last interview – the Pastoral one.
The Pastoral adviser looks at Personality and Character, Leadership and Collaboration and Relationships. This is the most personal of the interviews and felt a little like a counselling session (if you’ve ever had counselling you’ll know what I mean). They will ask you some very deep and personal questions which are quite hard to answer but my adviser was really sensitive and gentle (I don’t think they’d let a dragon do these interviews!) It was a bit emotional but ok, not surprising given the personal nature of the questions.
Every day is punctuated by morning and evening prayer in the chapel. There is a nice mixture of Common Worship, other forms of prayer and Book of Common Prayer. They say this is all optional but you’d be a bit daft not to go! Also it’s nice to have some structured worship as I found it quite hard to focus and pray on my own whilst there – it’s so intense it’s nice to have some prayers to follow instead (but then I like liturgy anyway!)
Things that surprised me:
- The warmth of the other candidates. The other candidates made the process a real pleasure, we were all rooting for each other and had a good laugh each evening in the bar dissecting some of our interviews and just chatting about other stuff too.
- I really enjoyed all the worship in the chapel and particularly the closing service where there was a brilliant homily.
- The food was really good and meal times were convivial.
- Just how exhausted I was on my return home – I nearly slept for the whole day afterwards – so try and get the day off on the Thursday if you can!
- How painful and horrible the 10 day wait to hear was! I didn’t anticipate quite how hard the wait would be – I kind of wish I’d been more busy with work – the last two days I wasn’t working and so I had plenty of time to convince myself it would be a ‘no’!
The good advice I received that I also pass on to you if you’re going to a BAP:
- Tell people you’re going to the BAP – get them praying for you. I felt very buoyed by prayer whilst I was there and had an almost floaty journey down on the train! One great thing for me was that I posted on Facebook that I was going (a lot of my FB friends didn’t even know I was on this journey – so I kind of ‘came out’!) – I got loads of encouragement from people, some of whom I haven’t seen for years. So if you’re like me and share your life on social networks, it’s worth sharing this as all sorts of people come out in support of you that you’d never expect!
- Be yourself – all they’re trying to work out is if you match what’s been said in your references and other forms and if God really is calling you specifically to ordained ministry (not just ministry per se).
- Try and enjoy it – it’s ridiculously intense but you go through it along with the other candidates – and it’s a bit of an ordeal for the advisers too – there is a real sense of camaraderie which helps to make the process less daunting.
- Give yourself time on your return to recover – I needed to sleep for a whole day – you really feel like a spent match at the end of it.
- After you’ve rested, try and get busy – I wish I’d occupied myself more whilst I waited to hear.
Here are some other great blog posts to read before going to a BAP:
Liz Clutterbuck – So you’re going to a BAP – really humorous take on going to a BAP
Rachel Hartland – To BAP, BAPing, I BAPed – encountering the verb of selection for ordination! – read this especially if you’re going to Ely
Emma Goldby – Bishops’ Advisory Panel thoughts – some very sage advice
That’s the story of my BAP. The process is very rigorous but made me realise what care is taken to ensure the right decisions are made for everyone concerned. I think it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but when you think of the consequences – which are truly life-changing – you can see why! I especially want to thank Rachel (@ramtopsrac on Twitter) for her encouragement and support – it was so nice to have someone go through a BAP just before I did! Now on to the next stage of the journey!
What if you don’t get recommended?
To round off this article I think it’s appropriate to also share a story of someone who didn’t get recommended. You can read Ernie’s frank account on the Big Bible site. My thanks to Ernie for his honesty and for sharing such a personal story.
After a wait of 10 days following my Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) I finally received a call from my bishop confirming that I’ve been recommended for training for ordination in the Church of England (ie. they’ve said I can go to Vicar School!) This is literally the most life-changing phone call I’ve ever received and this mad journey is only just beginning.
I want to thank all my friends and family for their prayers and support through the process of discernment and also my new friends from Twitter, most of whom I’ve never met face to face, who’ve prayed for me and tweeted me encouragements along the way.
I guess I have always known I was called to the ministry. When I was 10 years old I used to imagine leading my own church for children (which I’ve only since realised is a bit odd!) – this was, of course, before women were ordained as priests in the Church of England. At my Roman Catholic school I managed to persuade them to let me preach at the sixth form Epiphany mass(!) All my adult life I’ve been involved in various church activities and always sought out ways to share my faith and if I can, help people grow to know God. Now I’ve reached the point where I can realise this calling more fully in the role of a priest and I am so excited and daunted about what the future will hold!
The next step is training. I will train for 2 years at theological college, Cranmer Hall, Durham, starting this autumn. Following that I will follow the usual path of training as a curate (basically a trainee vicar) in a parish – probably back in Bradford Diocese.
I won’t stop working with social media though, of course, and I will be continuing to work with Reach Further until I go to college (and may well try and find ways to keep my hand in there) and I’m sure I’ll still be supporting the New Media Centre of Excellence too as well as continuing to write for the Big Bible Project.
I leave you with a picture of St Hild of Whitby, what a heroine! The reason I include this is because my friend Nick Morgan kindly shared her prayer with me as I was waiting to hear whether I’d been recommended and she is a great female role model for church leadership!
Take me often from the tumult of things into Thy presence.
There show me what I am, and what Thou hast purposed me to be. Then hide me from Thy tears.
O King and Saviour, what is Thy gift to me? And do I use it to Thy pleasing? Dear Lord, You alone know what my soul truly desires, and You alone can satisfy those desires.
I have prepared a place for you, says the Lord, a place that is for you, and only you, to fill.
Approach My table, asking first that you might serve. Look even for the lowest tasks.
Then, the work of service done, look for your own place at table. But do not seek the most important seat which may be reserved for someone else. In the place of My appointing will be your joy.
Lord, show me the right seat; find me the fitting task; give me the willing heart. May I be equal to Your hope of me. If I am weak, I ask that You send only what I can bear. If I am strong, may I shrink from no testing that shall yield increase of strength or win security for my spirit.
I trust in Thee, O Lord. I say, ‘Thou art my God. My times are in Thy hand, my times are in Thy hand.
Yesterday I read this article in the Telegraph online written by Bettany Hughes promoting her BBC programme Divine Women. I was intrigued by the mention in the article of an image in the Priscilla Catacombs of Rome showing a woman wearing an alb (a sign of an ordained person) with a Bishop putting his arm on her shoulder. I promptly did a quick internet search for this image and at first couldn’t find anything. Then I came across this interesting article which contains this image:
I assumed that this was the image to which Bettany Hughes was referring (it actually isn’t) but I couldn’t figure out where it was from (there not being a reference on the website where I saw it). So I posted the image on Facebook and Twitter to see if I could find out what it was a picture of. A few friends helped out, initially I thought as far as I would get would be my brother in law Steve’s hilarious interpretation:
“It is actually an image from the first ever game of ‘bullseye’. She lost the game and has been presented with a thanks for playing trophy but he is just saying ‘let’s see what you could have won’”.
But then my friend Lawrence came up trumps with finding this site about the Basilica of St Prassede in Rome – which is where the image is from.
It turns out that this is just part of a bigger picture showing the two daughters of St Pudens, Saints Prassede and Pudenziana being presented to God – this image is St Prassede being presented by St Paul (Source: Wikipedia).
So I was looking at the wrong picture all along, I watched the second episode of the programme and discovered there are three main images that support Hughes’ argument that there were ordained women in the early church, one from this basilica of St Prassede, and the others from the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome.
The main image I was looking for is this one from the Catacomb of Priscilla:
It’s the grouping on the left that Bettany Hughes was talking about. It’s almost impossible to make out here but apparently the woman is wearing an alb and is being blessed by a Bishop. I’m not sure what to make of this – it seems a lot to extrapolate from a rather vague image. However, the female figure in the centre is striking and obviously worshipping God – perhaps even leading worship?
The other intriguing fresco in the catacomb is this image of women around a table apparently breaking bread (ie sharing communion). I wonder whether this is an image of an Agape meal?
Whatever it is a picture of, it is unusual to see so many women depicted and especially in a place of worship. I find this so exciting (I’m a bit of an ancient history geek!) Whether it means women presided at the Eucharist in the early church I’m really not sure but it does confirm what we already know from the New Testament: that women were very prominent in the early church. In fact, they provided much of the financial support for the fledgling movement (for an example, see Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2).
The other intriguing image Hughes referred to in the programme is the mosaic of Bishop Theodora:
This is in a chapel in the Basilica of St Prassede, alongside images of the sisters Prassede and Pudenziana with the Virgin Mary.
If you look closely you can see the word ‘episcopa’ written above her head and down the left hand side the name Theodor – apparently with the ‘a’ removed. It’s suspected that this was a later defacement because Episcopa is the female form of Episcopos, the Greek for Bishop – it couldn’t be seen for a woman to be a bishop and so they changed Theodora’s name to the male form, Theodore.
Theodora was actually the mother of the Pope Paschal I so some hold that the ‘episcopa’ simply refers to this. Some argue that other uses of episcopa in these early centuries simply refer to the ‘wife of a bishop’ and not a female bishop. The same argument is used for the translation of deacon in the New Testament – in 1 Timothy 3:11 – that the female form of deacon simply means ‘wife of a deacon’ rather than a deaconess in their own right.
I think, however, that even if you accept this conservative reading, it still leaves me with these questions:
- Why was the word episcopa or deacon connected to women at all?
- Why commemorate Theodora in this rich mosaic, in a prominent place next to two female saints and the Virgin Mary?
- Why provide her name? If her fame was only that she was the Pope’s mother, why not just say Mother of Pope Paschal?
Finally, in my online research I also came across an interesting passage in a document from the 3rd century called the Didascalia. One of the main arguments against women’s ordination is that if you are to represent Christ at the eucharist, you must be a man. The Didascalia has an interesting take on the roles of male and female deacons (an ordained servant of the church):
The deacon stands next to you as a symbol of Christ; therefore you should love him.
The deaconess should be honoured by you as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Didascalia II, 26, 5-6
What an interesting idea! That a woman can represent a different part of the triune God – the Holy Spirit, even if directly she cannot represent Christ because she is female.
So this has been an interesting little excursion into early church history. I think some of Bettany Hughes’ interpretations stretch things a little but I think this archaeological evidence supports what we know from scripture. Christianity had a radical new equality built in from the start between men and women: from the way in which Jesus treated and honoured women, through to women being the first heralds of the Good News of the Resurrection and then on to their role in the early church providing finances and homes for worship. As Paul writes to the Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:28
Over the last few years I have organised a Passover meal at church and in my small group. I thought I would share the order of service or ‘haggadah’ that I use so that you can do the same in your church or small group. I have to say, it works best in a small group setting as the meal is designed to be shared by a family (50 people in a hall feels less intimate) – compare it to sharing a Christmas dinner.
The Passover meal is a ritual meal celebrated by Jews the world over, it is the most important of the festivals. The Passover celebrates and remembers when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, when the angel of the Lord in the last and tenth plague ‘passed over’ the homes of the Israelites who had made the sacrifice of a lamb and daubed the blood on the door jambs and lintel. Read Exodus 12ff. to get a picture of that first Passover.
The Passover meal was the last supper shared by Jesus with his disciples. It is significant that Jesus chose the Passover meal at which to institute Holy Communion. The Passover celebrates God’s salvation through the blood of the lamb on the doorposts as the angel of death passed over, Holy Communion or the Last Supper celebrates our salvation through the blood of the Lamb – Jesus himself.
Sharing a Passover meal together is a wonderful way to celebrate the same meal Jesus shared with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed. You will get a fuller picture of the significance of Holy Communion and of salvation history and experience the warm fellowship that always comes from sharing food together.
For an entertaining 2 minute version of the haggadah or order of service read this article here. Another article worth reading is this one about the mysterious nature of the part of the meal when a piece of bread is hidden in the room – the afikomen – and whether it could represent Jesus. It’s also intriguing that the matzo unleavened bread – which is like a cracker – has stripes on it (see image) – this has led some to say that this represents the ‘stripes’ of Jesus:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5
I adapted this version of the Passover meal myself for a church setting. There are parts for a number of readers – in the normal passover meal the people who take part are the mother at the beginning – lighting the candles and then the father is the one who tells the story with questions from the youngest boy. My version enables a number of different people to take these roles – use it in the best way that suits your setting.
View and download the order of service or haggadah here, as it’s a Christian one it contains references to the New Testament:
This is the food you’ll need to buy for the main parts of the meal. You will also need to cook a hearty meal as well – search online for popular passover recipes or make something simple like Shepherd’s Pie.
Matzos (crackers – find in health food aisle or with crackers)
Red Grape Juice/Cranberry Juice/Wine/sherry
A boiled egg
A lamb bone – cleaned and dried
You’ll need to make haroset – a sticky sweet mixture that represents the clay of the bricks made by the Hebrews in captivity in Egypt.
This is a sweet mud like mixture:
1 apple, grated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons of sweet red wine or grape juice
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon of honey
Prepare all the ingredients and then mix together well. The resulting mixture should be lumpy and of a similar consistency to heavy porridge or moist stuffing. If you have a food processor, the easiest way to make haroset is to roughly blend it all in one go, adding the apple at the end.