Easter at Westminster Abbey
Easter is one of the most important festivals within the Christian calendar as it celebrates the events which founded the Christian faith. As such, there will be many services held over the course of Holy week at Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey’s Easter services start on Palm Sunday which falls on 9th April, a week before Easter. The service will include a procession into the Abbey which symbolises Christ’s entry to Jerusalem. Another important part of this service will be the singing of the Passion from the gospels by the Westminster Abbey Choir. The Passion covers the events at the end of Jesus’ life from the point at which he enters Jerusalem to his crucifixion.
The next major service takes place on the following Thursday, Maundy Thursday. This service, commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and re-enacting the moment where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, includes the Dean of Westminster washing the feet of twelve people. A vigil will also be held in St Margaret’s; a solemn time to remember Jesus entering the garden of Gethsemane and facing his fate.
Services on Good Friday remember the day of the crucifixion. There will be a ‘Walk of Witness’ along Victoria Street, starting from Methodist Central Hall and ending at the Abbey. This walk is a procession of the cross in memory of the walk Jesus took to Golgotha. There will be a large cross placed in the Abbey for people to say their prayers by and to remember Jesus’s sacrifice.
On Holy Saturday, after sunset, services begin to mark the resurrection of Christ. Just inside the West doors of the Abbey a small fire will be lit by the vergers and from this new fire the Easter candle will be lit. The candle will then be processed through Westminster Abbey lighting other candles as it goes past so that the light grows and become brighter. There will be a moment before the choir sings ‘Glory be to God’ when bells will be rung and the organ will be played very loudly to ‘wake the dead’. This year, during the service, two of the choristers from the Westminster Abbey Choir will be baptised. It is particularly special for a baptism to occur at Easter; as it is in itself a rebirth, it is fitting to have it take place at a time celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter Sunday will follow the normal structure of Sunday services, but it will be filled with joyous music and celebration to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
The special Easter services at Westminster Abbey are planned around a month beforehand, as orders of service need to be created and there are meetings with the vergers to arrange everything so that it runs smoothly on the day. Despite the large scale of the services at the Abbey, what takes place during Holy Week will be very similar to what is going on at churches across the country and around the world, as this is an experience shared by all Christians.