Seasons and Festivals
Major Festivals
Picture, Floral Decorations
The church divides the year into eight main Seasons, each with one or more Major Festivals, that remind us of the important times in the life and work of God and Jesus, and consequently have major significance for his followers, and so are usually observed by most Christians. (Return to top)

As well as the seasons and major festivals, the church celebrates several 'Special Days' throughout the year to remember, honour or support our work in God's world. Celebration of the "Special Days" is usually optional, Christians chose which they want to remember. (Return to top)
The Main Eight
Picture, Empty Tomb
The season of 'Eastertide' begins with the principal Christian Festival 'Easter', attendance at which is expected of all Christians. The English name Easter is derived from the Anglo-Saxon 'Eastre', an ancient German goddess associated with spring. In many other countries the Festival is known by variations of the word 'Pasha', which is derived from the Jewish 'Pesach', the Festival of Passover associated with the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, which was being celebrated at the time when the original Easter events occurred (see Lent - Maundy Thursday). (Return to Top)

Easter is the culmination of Jesus' objective in coming to earth in human form - to make amends for human sin by obeying God perfectly. The Festival of Easter marks the beginning of the season of 'Eastertide', which lasts 50 days until Pentecost, and is the subject of great festivity and rejoicing.
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The customs associated with Easter vary considerably from country to country and between different denominations but usually include the most elaborate of the church Services held during the year. They include the Easter Vigil, Service of Light, Sunrise Service, and Easter Holy Communion. (Return to Top)

(The Easter story has been illustrated through 6 displays around the church. Click here for details).
Easter Vigil
Picture of Pashal Candle
A Pascal Candle
In the western tradition, all feasts start at sunset the day before (following the Jewish pattern where the sabbath runs from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday). Not all churches use this Service, but if it is celebrated in full according to the Roman Catholic or 'High Church' tradition, the celebration begins in complete darkness at dusk on Holy Saturday, simulating the darkness of the grave into which Jesus was placed after his execution, and it is completed before dawn on Easter Sunday morning. (Return to Top)

It usually starts with a fire lit by the priest outside in the churchyard, which symbolises the radiance of Jesus dispelling the darkness of sin and death, and from which a large Paschal candle is lit (The word 'Paschal' is derived from 'Passover'). The lighted candle is carried into an otherwise dark church declaring in a loud voice, "The Light of Christ". Other candles are lit from this one candle as it moves towards the front of the church, until the church is ablaze with light (when the electric lighting may be turned on). There will usually follow the chanting of the 'Exsultet' or Easter Proclamation declaring that Christ is risen and has conquered sin and death.
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The celebration continues with a 'Service of the Word' in which seven or more sections of the Bible's 'Old Testament' are read depicting the history of the Jews, especially those parts pointing towards Jesus, with special emphasis on the crossing of the Red Sea, because that relates to the time of Passover. The 'Gloria in Excelsis' will be sung, together with the use of the word 'Alleluia' (Hebrew: 'Halleluia' = 'Praise the Lord') which is especially associated with Easter. At this point in the celebration people were traditionally baptised or confirmed into full membership of the church, and the Service may today include a renewal of baptism vows by everyone present.
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The Service continues with a celebration of Holy Communion in the usual way, but with especially joyful Easter Anthems. The whole symbolises the resurrection and return of Jesus, the 'Light of the World' and our joyful receiving of the 'Good News' that he succeeded in his objective and there is now reconciliation between God and humanity and the prospect of life after death. (Return to Top)
Service of Light
Picture, Lighting Easter Candle
This Service is based on the first part of the full Easter Vigil described above and is used by some churches instead of the full Vigil. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus to life again after his crucifixion and, like the full Vigil, is usually held on Easter Saturday evening but sometimes very early on Sunday morning. Some churches use this Service, or other parts of the full 'Easter Vigil', whilst others use only the Holy Communion Service at their usual time on Easter Sunday morning. (Return to Top)

For instance, the Service of Light may take the form of the lighting of a fire outside the church at dusk on Holy Saturday and the carrying of the Paschal candle into the dark church with the words "The Light of Christ" or "Christ is Risen", followed by a short 'Service of the Word' omitting the many Old Testament readings and 'Exsultet' but including the 'Gloria in Excelsis' - the first time that has been sung since before Lent. The Service ends there and the people depart, delaying the celebration of Holy Communion until the usual time the following morning. Dymock has used this last format in the recent past, although not in the last few years, now we use only the Easter Sunday morning Service. (Return to Top)
Sunrise Service
Picture, Sunrise
Other churches, especially Protestant churches, have adapted this tradition by holding a Service at dawn on Easter Sunday morning in the churchyard or other public place such as a local park, in allusion to the passage in the Gospel which says that two of Jesus' female followers went to his tomb early on the Sunday morning and found it open and his body gone, only to be told by an angel that he was risen from the dead and alive again (angel = 'messenger of God'). Others hold the Service in a local graveyard in allusion to Jesus having risen from the dead and no longer in the grave. The Sunrise Service is often followed by a communal breakfast for all those attending. (Return to Top)
Easter Holy Communion
Picture, Bread & Wine
Most churches hold a Service of Holy Communion on Easter Sunday morning. For some this will be the main Service, but for others it will be part of the Easter Vigil as described above. In any event, it will be an especially joyful affair, often including trumpets or brass instruments as well as the usual musical accompaniment, together with the singing of Easter anthems, the 'Gloria in Excelsis' and the Easter greeting "Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia", as Christians show their gratitude at the good news that Jesus has defeated death and bought us reconciliation with God, despite our sins. (Return to Top)