We thought you might be interested in some of the different things that happen locally in All Saints Cathedral over this period. This has been a very different sort of time for us compared with the way we have celebrated Holy Week and Easter in Dorset and Salisbury.
On Palm Sunday we discovered that you are expected to make your own palm cross before the service. There were some palm branches at the entrance and some kind person gave us a piece. Fortunately we hadn't forgotten how to make them as we did many in Australia. There were a huge variety of styles and sizes. The service here is either ASB morning prayer or ASB communion. Palm Sunday, and Good Friday were MP and Maundy Thursday and Easter Day were Communion.
On Maundy Thursday, which had been advertised as the "feet-washing", the whole congregation had their feet washed. We formed a long queue and each came and sat in the front row in turn while the clergy went along the row - some poured water, others washed and a third dried. People were not reluctant. We had another surprise when we came to the communion. Instead of the usual wafer they had baked sponge cakes and we each broke a piece off. We weren't sure what it would taste like even though it looked exactly like cake - but it was cake! A special thing for a special day! The service lasted a long time, but 2 hours is the average, and no-one seems to mind. It was supposed to start at 5 pm. We arrived at 4.55 and were virtually the first. By the time it started at 5.40 there were about 10 rows of people and by 6 pm the cathedral was more than half full.
On Good Friday there was just the one service for both Arabic and English. Trevor preached with a translator. Since no sermon is less than 25 minutes long, the translation made it 25 minutes so it was regarded as respectable. Long sermons are expected. Some of the preachers get very dramatic and draw noisy responses from the congregation. Trevor's sermon was more sedate!
The Easter Eve service included candles. But again you had to bring your own. The practice is that everyone queues to light their candle from the Easter Candle. This took ages. Then you hang on to your lighted candle throughout the sermon so you have to have a fairly big candle! Most people stood them in sand in chopped off water bottles. By the time the service finished it was dark and everyone went out holding their lighted candles.
Easter Sunday was similar to a normal Sunday except that the hangings were all white. They don't just cover the altar but all the chairs and prayer desks in the chancel and the lectern. The Assistant Bishop of Juba preached an interesting sermon with several memorable things. One was that you should still come to church even if you think that the preacher on the rota is hopeless. You will learn from his hopelessness! Another was about the women going to the tomb in faith not knowing how they were going to get in. They went even though they didn't know how they were going to succeed. We should still set out on our tasks even when we are not sure how the obstacles are going to be overcome. The ladies also pointed out that all the women were allowed to do was go and anoint the body - but when they got there, they were called to be the first witnesses of the Resurrection. Women today should not content themselves with just doing the menial tasks but be prepared to witness to Christ.
We often get a "second sermon" at the end of the service on some topical point. On Easter Day we were addressed by the Minister of Gender, Social and Religious Affairs in the Government of Southern Sudan. She had just come to church as an ordinary member of the congregation, but the Bishop invited her to speak. She said that we need to stick at the work even when things get hard. We still need to grow food crops even though we expect to earn wages. (This month the government wages were not forthcoming). The Bishop followed this up by sending us out to plant now the rainy season has come. And he told white people who have come to work here to see they really help, and not just see their time in Juba as a time to make money! (There were far more white people than usual who had come for Easter).
In the afternoon there was an Outdoor Easter Celebration that had been organised mostly by the ladies. There were songs and dances from a number of groups, the mamas (older women),
younger women, a choir and young people and the Sunday School. We had another sermon (from a woman) and long speeches. The men's contribution was the All Saints Cathedral Drama Group. They were brilliant. They acted out a scene where someone was paying money to noisy witch-doctors to heal their friend but to no avail. Then a preacher came along and simply raised the person without any fuss. The whole thing involved a lot of clowning and caused huge delight.
The Sudanese are very good actors. The event overran (of course) and concluded in the dark with everyone being given some sweets and can of pop.
Perhaps the thing we most associate with Easter that we did not see were flowers. There are never any flowers in church because there just aren't any flowers in Juba, other than flowering bushes and trees - not the sort of thing your make into arrangements.
So we are now in the rainy season. It was pouring down on Easter morning. It is much cooler. And, by the way, not an Easter Egg or Easter Bunny in sight!