April 2021 - Mucknell Abbey
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Mucknell Abbey

April 2021

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Easter Monday – Several months ago Abbot Thomas created a small working group to produce a Methodist Easter Vigil service. In previous years, at least during our time at Mucknell, the celebration has been presided over by Br Stuart or Sr Alison according to the Anglican rite. One of the things the group were keen to do was to simplify the service without losing some of its most important symbolism. So no brocade, no thurible, no deacons, and a minimum of fancy footwork. And hopefully less tension.

I’m pleased to say the whole thing went beautifully, and many of us found it a very contemplative experience. It was an early start as usual. Most of us were up by 4.30am. Although it was a bit nippy the sky was clear and calm, ‘painted with unnumber’d sparks’, and the silence was broken only by owls tooting in the woods. I couldn’t help reflecting on how much we will lose when we’re surrounded by the new town.

This being the second year without guests there was no need for an 11am Eucharist, so we enjoyed a spacious morning before lunch – that is to say we walked around aimlessly with cups of coffee in our hands and vacant expressions on our faces. Unfortunately Sr Sally and Abbot Thomas had to oversee the production of a lamb roast. I also cajoled Sr Alison into doing some laundry with me. At one point she was heard muttering to herself “What did you do on Easter morning Alison?”…”The towel round”.

The first part of the afternoon was given over to napping – or so I imagine – before we gathered for tea. This year we found ourselves watching the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, which may not have been everyone’s first choice of entertainment, but Abbot Thomas, Sr Jessica and Sr Alison had a vested interest in the outcome. In case you don’t know, Cambridge won both races. Abbot Thomas was crestfallen, but Br Ian encouraged him to look on the bright side: ‘at least you made second place’.

Sr Sally outdid (overdid?) herself this year with the Simnel cake. It was so decadent I’m almost too ashamed to publicise it (alas, not ashamed enough). When the chorus of astonishment subsided someone thought it would be amusing – and it was – to ask Br Michael, our theological hardliner and resident ascetic, what he made of it. After a long pause he replied ‘…preposterous’.

For the record, no one managed a slice of cake and a creme egg.

Sunday 11th April, Low Sunday – This is the last day of our Easter Octave. This year’s has been particularly low key. A few of us made it out to nearby Bredon Hill on Tuesday, and just about managed to avoid the rain and sleet. On Friday we delivered Br Michaël’s largest commission to date, an icon of St John Climacus and the Ladder of Divine Ascent, to its new home in Oxfordshire. Our hosts provided us with a wonderful al fresco lunch, and contrary to BBC Weather’s gloomy prognostications we came away with sun-burnt skin. There were two nights of entertainment, including a showing of Autumn de Wilde’s Emma (2020). Again, not everyone’s cup of bohea tea. A good occasion to practice the monastic wisdom of wanting what you get rather than getting what you want.

A sheep on Bredon Hill. We forgot to take a selfie.
A cock pheasant overseeing his harem outside the back door. They’re drawn by the bird seed that falls from the feeders (see Mark 7:28). Sadly Mr Pheasant is now down to one wifelet. We fear the others were killed in a recent shoot.