5th April 2020

(Note: the newsletter can also be downloaded as a PDF.)

The Parish of Christ Church, Lancaster

A vibrant inclusive worshipping community

Sunday 5th April 2020

Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins.

Collect (Prayer for the week)

True and humble king, hailed by the crowd as Messiah: grant us the faith to know you and love you, that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross, which is the path of glory. Amen

Isaiah 50.4-9a

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.  Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord God has opened my ear,  and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards.  I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;  I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.  The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,  and I know that I shall not be put to shame;  he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?  Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me;   who will declare me guilty?  All of them will wear out like a garment;  the moth will eat them up.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

 Psalm 31. 9-16

Refrain:    Into your hands I commend my spirit.

9    Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in trouble;  ♦ my eye is consumed with sorrow, my soul and my body also.

10  For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing;  ♦  my strength fails me because of my affliction,  and my bones are consumed.

11  I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbours, an object of dread to my acquaintances;  ♦  when they see me in the street they flee from me.

12  I am forgotten like one that is dead, out of mind;  ♦  I have become like a broken vessel.

13  For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;  fear is on every side;  ♦  they scheme together against me,  and plot to take my life.

Into your hands I commend my spirit.

14  But my trust is in you, O Lord.  ♦  I have said, ‘You are my God.

15  ‘My times are in your hand;  ♦  deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.

16  Make your face to shine upon your servant,  ♦  and save me for your mercy’s sake.

Into your hands I commend my spirit.

Philippians 2.5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,  did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form,  he humbled himself  and became obedient to the point of death—  even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name  that is above every name,   so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Matthew 21.1-11

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,  ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

You may also wish to read the story of Jesus’ Passion: Matthew 26.14  –  27.66


Palm Sunday is the gut-wrenching turning point of Holy Week. In the space of a few minutes the story goes from exuberant joy as Jesus arrives into Jerusalem; to the story of his arrest, torture and death. Parallels can feel apt with our own national plunge into fear, darkness and uncertainty in recent weeks. It can feel disconcerting hearing about the crowds thronging about Jesus, the busyness of the streets as Jesus comes in triumph, knowing that everyone would turn on him.

Jesus came into the city. He knew it was a place of danger and death, and yet he made it his mission to go right to the heart of things, both into the Temple and the house of the Governor Pontius Pilate – to humbly show where God was at work. His friends advised him not to go, to stay and enjoy the quieter life in the countryside around Galilee. But he set his face to Jerusalem, and all the raw human need he’d find there.

Today, the city also feels like a dangerous, deathly place to go into. We pray for those in London, working in makeshift field hospitals and struggling to provide for the housebound and fragile. For the towns and cities in India and South Africa where self-isolation is not possible because of overcrowding; and where hygiene and healthcare are impossible luxuries. And we also pray for our own city – it’s deserted streets, those with livelihoods on the line, all who feel imprisoned and bowed down by fear and restrictions.

These are the cities Jesus comes to. Some will rejoice and celebrate, because ‘He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister His grace, no work too hard for him’ as the hymn, Be Still for the Presence of the Lord reminds us. But Jesus comes to be with his people, even as the tensions boil around him and the danger mounts. He’s in this for the long haul, at whatever cost, and social distancing means nothing to God.

Jesus surprises his followers and critics by being submissive to the power of Rome as the soldiers do their worst. As Peter and Judas break under the strain, Jesus offers nothing but love in return. He endures a criminal’s death, messy and humiliating and lonely, in solidarity with all who face death in the years to come. His presence, his very self, is right in the midst of people’s need then and today, providing hope, patience, calm and assurance minute by minute.

So what does that mean today? After another week of isolation, fear and uncertainty, it can be tempting to seek a break from the restrictions, especially if we do not know someone who is affected. Today’s gospel comes as a word of encouragement that we persevere in what we have been asked to do, we ‘give unto Caesar’ as we hear earlier in Matthew’s Gospel and hold to what our government and NHS ask of us.

Jesus’ example of patient endurance and self-sacrifice is for the whole of humanity, particularly those who feel weak or vulnerable today. If being Christ-like sounds like an impossible ideal today, then remember that the same Jesus says ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest’ – Jesus shares our burdens if we offer them to him in prayer, and through the people we chat to, offload to and vent with. 

Jesus comes humbly to the city of Jerusalem to serve the human needs he finds there, and to satisfy people’s longing for the certainty that God was indeed at work, and busy loving in a world that felt strange and scary. He comes to our city, to walk beside us whatever the week ahead holds, and share the burden of all the things which weigh so heavily on our hearts and the demands which can feel oppressive.

And Jesus comes to our hearts and souls too. He stands at the door and knocks, waiting for us to invite him in and bring God’s love closer to us than even our closest family. Some words from Mister God, this is Anna, by Fynn: Anna (a young girl, talking to her friend Fynn) says, ‘I love Mister God truly, but he don’t love me. He don’t love me, not like you do, it’s different, it’s millions of times bigger. Fynn, people can only love outside, and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can love you right inside, and Mister God can kiss you right inside, so it’s different.’

That is the love Jesus brings into our cities, our homes, our hearts. It is love for the long haul, for he knows what lies ahead. Palm Sunday is a day to be triumphant that Jesus comes to us, and will help us carry the darkness and fear until the day comes when we too know the triumphant joy of resurrection. Amen.

Post Communion prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,  you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: give us the mind to follow you

and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Some suggested hymns you may like to follow at home:

  • All glory, laud and honour
  • Ride on, Ride on in majesty
  • My song is love unknown
  • Be still, for the presence of the Lord.

(You can find the full words to the hymns by searching on Google, or go to websites: https://hymnary.org or https://www.hymnal.net/en/home and many others.)

Holy Week and Easter.

Churches across the world are unable to meet together this season to remember and celebrate the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. If you can, spare a prayer for Christians who cannot gather to worship today because of the fear of violence or persecution.

We find ways of marking Holy Week and celebrating Easter in our own homes (just as the earliest Christians did), knowing we are together in spirit if not in place.

At Christ Church, there is a booklet of daily thoughts and prayers available, with contributions from Brenda with reflections for Stations. You can find the booklet, plus Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Stations of the Cross on the website, or if you prefer a paper version please let Rev Carol or Jacqueline know.

Spiritual Communion

For many of us, receiving bread and wine at the Eucharist is the foundation of our Sunday service, and the way we know Christ’s loving, sustaining presence in our lives, and specially at the big feasts of Easter and Christmas. From ancient times, the Church has held a service called ‘Spiritual Communion’ especially for those who could not receive the bread and wine of communion, for example when illness prevented it. Spiritual Communion has much in common with a Eucharist – we ask God for His help and forgiveness, we pray for ourselves and for the world, and we ask Christ to bring us closer to the community of love that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the assurance that however ill or isolated we might be, Christ is there beside us, and we are part of His church family because of His grace and love, until the time comes when we can receive communion once again. As I pray the Eucharist each Sunday on behalf of the parish; thanking God for His many blessings and asking for His protection and care – you may wish to follow the Spiritual Communion service at home, using the day’s readings, prayers and sermon.

Help, Prayer and Support:

If you need a hand with shopping, medicines collection etc in coming weeks, or would like a friendly phone call, or if you are able to help others in the parish out, please contact help@christchurchlancaster.org.uk or call/text 07539 583638 and leave a message, or contact us via our Facebook page.

We will be praying daily for all who are suffering in the current crisis. If you would like us to pray for you, or for someone you know, for any reason, please email your request to prayer@christchurchlancaster.org.uk  or text the Prayer Chain on 07980 351855. Please ask the person’s permission if you’d like them included in the weekly notices.

Lighting a light

If you’re someone who likes to light a candle in church to remember a loved one, have a look at www.churchofengland.org/life-events/funerals/light-candle which offers online space to light a candle in the national church.  You could also light a real candle in your window at 7 pm each Sunday – or indeed every day – to show that the light of God’s love can never be extinguished even in these dark times.

Additional sources of prayer and worship which you may find helpful:

6am Sundays on Radio 2: The Sunday Hour

8.10am Sundays on Radio 4: Sunday Worship (different denominations lead prayers, reflections and music)

1.13pm Sunday – Songs of Praise on BBC 1

9.45am Daily Service on Radio 4 Longwave (or BBC Sounds)

3.30pm on Wednesdays and Sundays on Radio 3 Choral Evensong

(Search Religion and Ethics on Iplayer/BBC Sounds)

Apps (all free) for your tablet or smartphone:

  • Daily Prayer app (from the Church of England) – allows you to pray the services of morning, evening and night prayer, including the readings and prayers for the day.
  • Pray as you go – a Jesuit app which helps you reflect on a passage of scripture and pray Ignatian-style.
  • Our Bible (partly free) – produced by students in Yale University, offers a way of reading scripture through many different lenses.
  • The Bible Society’s Lyfe app – offers a simple Bible reflection for morning, noon and night.
  • Live Lent (from the Church of England) – daily thought and prayer during Lent.
  • Lectio 365 – a daily, prayerful response to Scripture.

Livestreaming Church

If you want to follow a service from the comfort of your sofa this weekend, did you know that our Diocese has a Youtube Channel? https://www.youtube.com/user/blackburndiocese

Subscribe to be sure of getting new clips. Lancaster Priory are also offering prayer twice a day and a 10 am Sunday Eucharist from the Vicarage via Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/lancasterpriorymusic/

Plea of the week:

Lancaster Foodbank are desperate for donations: please help if you can. The donation point in church is closed, but you can leave food in the collection boxes in Dalton Square Pharmacy, Sainsbury’s, and other supermarkets, or take it to St Thomas’s Centre where the Olive Branch food bank is now based

And if you’re looking for a list of local businesses which offer home delivery (milk, veg, etc), please let Rev Carol or Pat know, there’s also a link on our Facebook page.


Being in isolation at home, especially with high levels of national fear and anxiety affects our emotional wellbeing and mental health. For those who live with mental health issues already, this will be an extra- difficult time. If you find yourself more stressed, short-tempered, tearful or worried than usual, take a look at:

https://mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak  for some suggestions and tips of keeping mentally healthy.

Children’s Corner:

Please let Rev Carol know if you would like a Good Friday Garden kit delivering to your doorstep – suitable for ages 3+ (as contains small parts and needs some supervision) as there are still a couple left. If you didn’t receive the Children’s Church email about this (and would like to in future), please let Rev Carol know – revcarolbackhouse@gmail.com

Please also remember in your prayers:

Those who are ill:  Olive Niccolls, Youngblood McCray, Len Fletcher, Ernie Wilson, Pat Brooks, Freya de Lysle, Bill and Ivy Buckley, Michael Greenhalgh, Frank Jensen

RIP: Sister Barbara Maud OHP, Barrie Ratcliffe, Elizabeth Warren, Joan Ross

This week’s streets to pray for those who live and work in our parish:

Skiddaw Road, Elterwater Place

Please pray for all the homes who received a leaflet from the church this week that the offer of prayer and support will be taken up. Please give thanks too for the volunteers who helped!

We also remember our care homes – Dolphinlee House and Moorside Hall –  praying for staff, residents and families there.

The national prayer for this outbreak:

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

A Three-Minute Meditation to try at home

  1. Either sitting or standing, find a comfortable but dignified posture. Then bring your thoughts to your inner experience at this moment.
  2. What thoughts are going through your head? Take a step back from them and notice what kind of thoughts they are, rather than going with the flow of thinking.
  3. What feelings are present? Notice where there is emotional discomfort (eg worry, anger) and where there are satisfying feelings (eg comfort, joy)
  4. What bodily sensational are present? Perhaps scan your body from head to toe, noticing where there is tension, pain, or tightness.

2. Redirect your attention to your breathing. To the flow of air in through the nose, down with the movement of the ribs and diaphragm. Stay with the sense of breath in the belly, and the movement of air in and out.

3. Expand your awareness ‘pan up’ so that as well as your breathing you become aware of your body, for example your facial expression and posture.

Take this awareness into the rest of your day. As you practise it day by day, allow God to show you His presence beside you, and in each breath that you inhale. Be filled with that strength, love and peace which can only come from God. 

Giggle (or groan) of the Week: (suggestions welcome)

Due to the quarantine, I’ll only be telling inside jokes.

Thought for the week.

Be like Pontius Pilate this week – and keep washing your hands!

Eco-Church Group Action for the Week

Offer to collect shopping for someone who cannot get to the shops (whilst keeping a safe distance, washing your hands thoroughly, etc.).  It saves multiple journeys, and helps people know that others care.

Key contacts:

Vicar: Revd Carol Backhouse 942105 revcarolbackhouse@gmail.com

Associate Priest: Canon Brenda Harding 66071


Lay Reader:  Dr Pat Allen 39552.

Churchwarden: Dr Paul Thompson 34949

Churchwarden: Mrs Jacqueline Stamper 64083 churchwarden@christchurchlancaster.org.uk

Parish Safeguarding Officer:  Ms Jane Lippitt 07930 979503 safeguarding@christchurchlancaster.org.uk

Children’s Church: Mrs Liz Mills 67005

Nightshelter Co-ordinator: Ms Jan Norbury 07547 717 060   coordinator.nightshelter@gmail.com

Hall Bookings hallchristchurch@btinternet.com 

07980 351855

Christ Church School Ms Emma Simpson 60955