Easter Morning in Rural Somerset

‘With Christmas, Easter is the most important feast day of the Christian calendar and Easter morning itself is the climax of a very busy seven days, starting on Palm Sunday the week before.

‘As Rural Dean of the Crewkerne-Ilminster Deanery in Somerset, I fill in where necessary to hold services for the 16 vicars who work across the 46 parishes under their care. This includes services on Maundy Thursday – the celebration of the Last Supper, and Good Friday – the Cruxifiction of Christ.

‘Saturday is traditionally a day of quiet reflection and members of parishes will still hold vigils to until Easter Morning, when Jesus rose in glory from the dead.

‘This year I will only be needed to lead two services on Sunday morning, although on other years it can be up to four,which can be a bit hectic. I’ll start at a 10.30 am Holy Communion service at St Andrew’s church in the charming village of Dowlish Wake, home of Perry’s Cider.

‘It is the quintessential English rural village, with thatched houses, the cider mills with their orchards, a stream, ford and the ancient New Inn, as well as a pretty packhorse bridge.

‘The parish church contains the huge tomb of John Hanning Speke (1827-64), the English explorer, born in Ilminster, who discovered the headwaters of the Nile in 1857.

‘I expect a congregation of over 40 worshippers who can normally belt out a great tune during the hymns. I will most likely keep my sermon short and my message as succinct as possible as nobody wants me banging onat length.

‘Indeed, mine is a small part compared with the work that goes on backstage by the church wardens and bell-ringers to make the church look and sound its best. The visual effect of the huge array of locally-picked flowers with the traditional white and gold of the altar cloths will be magnificent.

‘By 11.15 I have to be at the village of Cudworth, just two miles down the road. Situated on the Windwhistle Ridge a few miles to the north east of Chard, it commands spectacular views over the county.

‘Easter always attracts a larger congregation and we should have around 35 locals at the service. Between 10 and 15% of the rural community are regular church-goers, far greater than in towns. Indeed, if we had that ratio in Ilminster or Chard we’d have to have three sittings.

‘The festival is a great favourite of children and families in the area and there are all manner of Easter events which take place nearby such as egg rolling and duck races. I think there is also chocolate egg hunt around the gardens of the church which is always popular.

‘By midday I’ll be finished and I can get back to dinner and a welcome opportunity to put my feet up for the afternoon.’