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What it's like to prepare Lichfield Cathedral for Easter celebration

By Heather Large | Lichfield | News | Published:

The Easter story is at the heart of the Christian faith and for millions of people around the world it's a time for reflection and celebrating new life.

The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, ready to welcome visitors to Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral has been a hive of activity throughout Holy Week as it gets ready to mark Easter Sunday tomorrow- the most important day in the church calender.

While for some this time of year is simply about getting together with friends and family, exchanging chocolate eggs and welcoming the start of spring.

For many others across the globe it has a much deeper meaning as they commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Hundreds of people have been welcomed through the doors of Lichfield Cathedral to take part in the festivities marking the last week of Lent.

Tradition of hospitality

While volunteers have been busy behind the scenes as the community comes together to help make the cathedral looks its best at this important time of year.

"We're known as a friendly cathedral and I'm glad because our deep tradition of hospitality means we make anyone who crosses the threshold feel as a welcome as a friend.

"It's a place where people can reflect and wonder," says the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber.

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The cross being carried through the cathedral on Good Friday

Today the church is being prepared and decorated for Easter while the building is kept quiet and dark with prayers and services throughout the day.

There will be a service of prayers in commemoration of the past Bishops of Lichfield where the current Bishop Dr Michael Ipgrave will pray at the places where his predecessors are buried or remembered.

Tomorrow's celebrations will begin bright and early with the Easter Vigil and Holy Eucharist at 5am.

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"Easter is the absolute pinnacle of the entire Christian year - it's a wonderful day. We begin in the dark at 5am and the first thing we do is strike a new fire - fire is a sign of life, warmth, and renewal. From that we light the Paschal Candle," says the Dean.

Vigil

There will be a short candlelit vigil as the congregation awaits the cry that Jesus has risen from the dead.

"We encourage people to bring bells, whistles and musical instruments and there is a big cacophony like at Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club when they score a goal.

"We listen to the St Paul's account of Jesus' resurrection and we baptise new Christians and confirm anyone who wants to affirm their faith," says the Dean.

Volunteers are hard at work preparing the cathedral for Easter Sunday

This will be followed by a celebration breakfast before a full round of cathedral services expected to be attended by 800 people.

Holy Week began with Palm Sunday when Christians remember Jesus' entry in Jerusalem.

The festivities began outdoors with the congregation gathering at Speakers’ Corner by Minster Pool.

Procession

Palm crosses were distributed and blessed and the Gospel was read followed by a group procession led by a donkey to the Cathedral.

"When we get inside church the mood changes significantly from the outdoors carnival atmosphere to focus on the end of this week and Jesus' crucifixion," explains the Dean.

In the evening the congregation walked the Stations of the Cross a devotion that commemorates Jesus' last day on Earth as a man.

"As we walk we reflect on our own journey in life," says the Very Rev Dorber, who was installed as the Dean of Lichfield in Sepember 2005.

Maundy Thursday started with the reaffirmation of ministerial promises before the foot washing ceremony.

"Jesus washed his disciple's feet as a sign of his love for them. This was to be their service to the world, doing the most menial things for people," says the Dean.

'Absolutely desolate'

At the end of the service, which also remembered the last supper, the cathedral was stripped of all of its hangings in preparation for Good Friday.

"Every ounce of colour is taken out of the place. It looks absolutely desolate. The Good Friday service remembers Jesus' last hours on the cross.

"It's a long service with four sermons. A large cross is carried through the church and we pray extensively.

"We then mark the burial of Jesus and how in the gospel of St John Jesus is buried as a king.

"We lay a sheet over the cross and we encourage people to go in their own time. The next day is a day of nothing, it's a day of remembering Jesus in his tomb," explains the Dean.

Peace woodland

Tomorrow's festivities also include a celebration of what is believed to be the first peace woodland planted outside Jerusalem.

Over 1,300 people have dedicated names of friends, departed loved ones, or living family members to the project marking the Centenary of the First World War.

The peace woodland – a permanent living artwork created from 1,918 sapling trees in Beacon Park - is the brainchild of the cathedral’s artist-in-residence, Peter Walker.

Lichfield Cathedral worked with Lichfield District Council and an army of volunteers to save, pot, nurture and plant these young saplings to create a lasting memorial to peace for everyone to enjoy.

“The peace woodland was at the heart of our Armistice year here at Lichfield Cathedral.

"It is fitting that on Easter Sunday, when we celebrate new life and resurrection, we bless the new life and hope symbolised by this permanent living artwork.

“We are grateful to everyone who chose to sponsor and dedicate a tree and be part of this peace project during 2018.

"We also thank the district council and all the volunteer tree planters who have brought this vision to reality.

“We hope the peace woodland will become a potent symbol: one that reminds us of the sacrifices made in war, and our ambition always to strive for peace, for freedom, and for hope," says the Very Rev Dorber.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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