Happy Easter from England!
One of our hopes for coming to England was to be able to immerse ourselves in ancient traditions and places after spending much of the past 7 years of lives creating new things. This morning we celebrated the resurrection of Christ at Hexham Abbey, a place where Christians have gathered for worship for since 674. The Anglican (Church of England) service was very traditional and took place in the great nave of this ancient church. We enjoyed it, but we did also miss worship at Pres House (especially giving and receiving large chunks of bread during Communion!).
Easter is a curious “holiday” in the England as it is in America. The Abbey was packed with people. Many I suspect, only attend church on Christmas and Easter. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Anglican church, said this week:
“I must admit that I don’t lose too much sleep about people turning up at Christmas and Easter who are a bit vague about what exactly it is about. And that people do come in at those moments and let the story wash over them and think what it might mean to orientate your life somehow in the light of those extraordinary things, well, that I welcome.”
I wholeheartedly agree with the Archbishop on this point. God’s grace is bigger than our record of church attendance or even our understanding of the faith. But I do find it curious that Easter bunnies and Easter chocolate plays a much larger role in our lives than the story of God’s marvelous defeat of death.
English people love their chocolate. Imagine the cheese aisle (aisles really) in Wisconsin. Then add the bratwurst aisle and maybe the beer aisles as well. That gives you an idea of what the chocolate aisles look like in Tesco, the large grocery story in Hexham. It seems at times that the main purpose of this season is to engage in the exchange of countless boxes of huge chocolate Easter eggs which are always accompanied by some other form of chocolate. We have received many of them (just look at the picture below!). And we have given them too.
I like chocolate. Particularly English chocolate. And I like the fun celebration of Easter eggs and bunnies and such. But in my life I don’t want the true joy of Easter to be drowned out by rivers of chocolate. It isn’t easy. Humans are very good at replacing meaning with…well, chocolate.
And so it was a blessing to come down to the breakfast table this morning to this:
My oldest daughter made it at school and hid it in her room all week to give to us this morning. The girls go to a Roman Catholic school here in Hexham. It is a beautiful reminder of the light of Easter that breaks forth in to our lives and world. And that is even sweeter than chocolate.
Tomorrow we embark on a week-long trip to southern England to visit Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath, Oxford, and the Cotswolds. We are looking forward to spending some time in a part of the country that we’ve never seen.