Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was re-enacted in north London yesterday as parishioners from five north London churches gathered for the 12th Ecumenical Procession with a donkey and Blessing of the Palms at the Manor House gates of Finsbury Park.
There were hymns, prayers, and readings from members of St Thomas More's Catholic Church, St Olave's, Woodbury Down, and St John the Evangelist, Brownswood Park Anglican Churches, the United Reform Church and Finsbury Park Methodist Church.
In his homily Fr Clive Lee, Parish Priest of St Thomas More's reflected on the donkey in the Gospel story. H pointed out that In the ancient Middle East, rulers rode horses if they went to war, but donkeys if they came in peace. So Jesus, rather than riding to conquer, enters Jerusalem in peace. Since his colt had never been ridden, it was accompanied by its mother… "Perhaps we can pause here, let that simple image of these animals and Christ work into our prayer and imagination this week. We are never alone for Christ travels with us, but we also need that touch of supportive love, the presence of the 'donkeys' of our lives, those on whom we are dependent, who shoulder our burdens and walk on with us too, yes animals and humans both."
Donkeys are most brutally treated around the world, he said. Some even now are kept deep in mines all their lives, beaten, deprived of food, working until they drop. "What an image of humble suffering they represent. And yet, on this day in the week we call Holy, their place in Paradise and salvation is assured, for unlike so many of the powerful ones, this colt and this donkey are remembered with gratitude and honour down the ages."
"May our prayer this Holy Week be: 'Let me come with these donkeys, Lord, into your land. These beasts who bow their heads so gently, and stand with their small feet joined together in a fashion utterly gentle, asking your compassion.'"
After the service at the park gates, parishioners accompanied by musicians on drums and accordion, walked through the streets to each of their different churches, for their Palm Sunday celebrations.
Children took turns to ride William - the donkey from Bury St Edmunds - a regular at this event - on their way back to St Thomas More's for Mass. William is now 17 and has been on the walk every year since it started.
One family who've been taking part since 2010 said they thought this year's was the best procession they've attended so far. "The music was especially good and there was a lovely atmosphere" they said.
The churches of all denominations around Finsbury Park have a long history of collaborating together. Each year several of them go on an ecumenical pilgrimage together, in a convoy of buses. Destinations have included Bath, Canterbury, Norwich, Salisbury, Cambridge, Ely and Lincoln.
Last September, St Mellitus in Tollington Park organised a Creation Day picnic in the park. Parishioners from St John Vianney's parish in West Green and St Thomas More's in Manor House joined them for games - including a giant Tug-of-War.
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