Through the Year
As a church within the Anglican Communion, our worship follows the rich pattern of the church’s liturgical year. The pages in this section give you a little background information on each of the church’s seasons (which begin, incidentally, with Advent) as well as some general information on what special worship you might experience at St John’s during that time of year.
Click on any box below to discover more about our worship during this time of year.
Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his ﬁnal advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies help us to prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, at Christmas.
The celebration of Christ’s birth, or incarnation, at Christmas is one of the two main feasts of the Christian year. We celebrate the wonderful mystery of God’s dwelling among us in the fullness of humanity, as Emmanuel, as told by the prophets and born of Mary.
In the Western churches, the Epiphany ( which means ‘manifestation’) became an occasion to celebrate one element in the story of Christ’s birth, the visit of the far-travelled magi. Matthew’s account speaks simply of ‘wise men from the east’; later tradition ﬁxed their number at three, made them kings and gave them names – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
In the Eastern churches, the Epiphany is the celebration of Christ’s baptism at the hands of John, when the heavens were opened and a voice from heaven declared Jesus to be God’s beloved Son.
Lent may originally have followed Epiphany, just as Jesus’ time in the wilderness followed immediately after his baptism, but it soon became ﬁrmly attached to Easter, as the main occasion for baptism and for the reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church’s fellowship for whatever reason. This explains why Lent is like it is, a time for self-examination, seeking forgiveness, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter. It is also a time during which many Christians give more to good causes.
Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare or Refreshment Sunday) was allowed as a day of relief from the harshness of Lent, and eventually led to the modern observance of Mothering Sunday on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
The last Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday, during which we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then the events of his last week, which is known as known as Holy Week. The atmosphere of the season darkens; the readings begin to prepare us for the story of Christ’s suffering and death.
Easter & Pentecost
At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide form a single festival period in which the tone of joy created at the Easter Vigil is kept right through the following seven weeks, and the Church celebrates the gloriously risen Christ.
Eggs are often decorated and given as gifts at Easter as a sign of new life, and because they remind us of the great stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb when he rose from the grave.
Towards the end of the Easter season we celebrate The Ascension. At this times, Jesus commissioned his disciples to continue his work, he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then he was no longer among them in the ﬂesh.
Easter concludes with the coming of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost.
Creationtide & Harvest
Many Christian churches, inspired in part by our modern concerns for the whole environment, celebrate several weeks of Creationtide. It begins on 1 September, which is Creation Day in the Orthodox Church and incorporates St Francis’ Day on 4 October, a saint closely associated with nature. It is the time when many religions are celebrating a Harvest Festival, when they give thanks to God for all good gifts. Many Christians give special gifts at Harvest, as a way of giving thanks to God and helping those in need.
The season finishes on 10 October, a focus date for global climate change campaigning.
No Christian is solitary. Through baptism we become members one of another in Christ, members of a company of saints whose mutual belonging goes beyond death.
All Saints’ Day (1 November) and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Souls’ Day (2 November) both celebrate this mutual belonging. All Saints’ Daycelebrates men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen the grace of God powerfully at work. It is a time to be encouraged by the example of the saints and to recall that holiness may grow in ordinary circumstances. The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed celebrates the saints in a more local and intimate way. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those whom we have known more directly: those who gave us life, or who nurtured us in faith.
Remembrance Sunday goes on to explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-gift, memory and forgetting.