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Vicar's Musings for the Sunday after Ascension

13 May, 2018

To extinguish or not ... that is the question? For many, this Sunday is known simply as the "Seventh Sunday of Easter." The Paschal Candle remains lit; the same Easter Alleluias are sung; the fifty days of Easter roll on uninterrupted until the Day of Pentecost. But, as we heard in Lynda Crossley's excellent sermon at the Ascension Day High Mass this week: "Ascension Matters!" Here at St Peter's we marked this by braving the wet and cold to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord on the day itself: Thursday. We extinguished the Paschal Candle to symbolise our Lord's Ascension into heaven; and for us this Sunday is not just Easter 7; it is also significantly the "Sunday after Ascension." Our liturgy therefore is simpler today, as we await the coming of the Holy Spirit ... as we make our journey of prayer over the ten days from Ascension to Pentecost.

Ten days of prayer. In recent years one of the initiatives of our Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been to emphasise the importance of the ten days between Ascension and Pentecost as a time of prayer. The Impact Report from the C. of E. on this initiative is worth reading; here is the opening statement

In 2016 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York presented the Church — and not just the Church of England, but Christians everywhere — with an invitation that was to prove more fruitful than they could have dreamed. It was simply to pray, between Ascension and Pentecost — 10 days — for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. Some prayer resources were produced to help Christians pray at home or in church, and dioceses were encouraged to put on larger 'beacon' events that would act as a focus for the initiative. It was clear from the response that something special was happening. In 2016 an estimated 100,000 people took part. Key to this was the 'Pledge to Pray', which saw tens of thousands signing up online to pray as individuals, with their families or with their churches; an interactive global map showed where the pledges had come from, with markers appearing all over the world. Christians from every denomination and tradition joined in the initiative, from Pentecostal to Roman Catholic: as the Archbishop of Canterbury said, 'It's not a Church of England thing, it's not an Anglican thing, it's a Christian thing.' By 2017, every diocese in the Church of England was included and 85 per cent of cathedrals took part, many hosting the beacon events. Because of the difficulty counting those taking part overseas, we know through various level of engagement that hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of people were involved last year. And the growth has been exponential: three-quarters of those who took part in 2017 had not done so in 2016 and of those who took part this year, 98 per cent plan to take part in 2018 ... In God's time and by his grace, a simple call to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come' has lit a flame in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of his people.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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