Seasonal Services

The Church calendar revolves around seasonal periods and services. Click on each section to find out more.

Advent

Marking the beginning of the Church year, Advent is the four-week season that leads up to Christmas. It marks a season of hope as we await the coming of God. Advent is often treated as a time to silence the mind, to be still and to wait in expectation. It is also a ‘penitential’ season, where we acknowledge our need of forgiveness for the pain and divisions of the world, even as we look forward to a new one. Themes that emphasise waiting, confession and hope culminate in the Advent Carol Service on the evening of Advent Sunday.

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Christmas

Though Christmas carols are sung during services throughout Advent, the season of Christmas really begins a few days before Christmas Day. During this time, Wells Cathedral is lit by thousands of candles to celebrate the coming of the child of Bethlehem. The Cathedral Carol Service is a calendar highlight. Hundreds of people pack the Nave and aisles to hear and sing carols which herald the coming of God. This service, together with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and Mass on Christmas morning, remind us that the coming of God was, extraordinarily, through the life of a vulnerable child. This emphasis on ‘The Incarnation’ lies at the heart of Anglican spirituality and is celebrated every day of the year at Evensong. The principal song that is sung at this service is the triumphant hymn of Mary, known as ‘The Magnificat’.

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Candlemas

The season of Christmas lasts for 40 days. It ends with the Feast of Candlemas on 2nd February, when a special Evensong is held. This service starts by candlelight in the Nave, which is cleared of its chairs, and the congregation then follows the procession into the Quire. At Candlemas, we remember the infant Christ being presented in the Temple in Jerusalem to Simeon who rejoices that he has seen this child, who will be ‘a light to the nations’. But this feast of Candlemas is bittersweet, for the old man warns the child’s mother of the pain and suffering she is to face because of her Son. Candlemas is celebrated by the lighting and extinguishing of candles, not only looking backward to the birth of Christ and the joy of Christmas, but also forward to the suffering and death on the Cross.

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Lent

Lent is a season of self-examination and penitence leading to Holy Week and Easter. Throughout this season, the emphasis is on a deep truthfulness.
 It begins on Ash Wednesday with a Communion service in which we acknowledge both the divisions within our lives and our world, and also our mortality. We are reminded of the death we must all face and the need to ‘repent of our sins and turn to Christ’, represented by a mark of ash on the forehead before Communion is received. During Lent, colourful, Orthodoxly-painted Icons that depict the last journey of Jesus out of the city of Jerusalem to the hill of Golgotha are placed around the Nave. Each Friday at noon, in preparation for Holy Week, people are invited to walk ‘the way of the cross’, following a led meditation on these striking images. The ‘Stations of the Cross’ service lasts approximately 30 minutes, or you can take the journey on your own with the aid of the self-guided information sheet.

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Holy Week and Easter

Easter is at the heart of the Christian faith. During Holy Week, we enter Jesus’s last days on earth with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. On Maundy Thursday evening, the Last Supper is re-enacted when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. On Good Friday, from 12.00pm to 3.00pm, there is a reflection in words, music and silence on the meaning of his suffering and death. On Holy Saturday, the whole building is quiet through the day as we recall his resting in the tomb. When darkness falls, the Cathedral community and hundreds of visitors gather at the west end of the Nave for the lighting of the ‘new fire’. With Wells Cathedral illuminated only by candles, the ‘paschal candle’ is lit from this fire which symbolises Christ’s resurrection. It is taken in procession to the font, where the great songs of Easter – the Exultet and the Gloria – are sung and baptism vows are renewed. On Easter Sunday morning, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated in a great festal Eucharist.

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Ascension, Pentecost & Trinity

The three feasts of Ascension (40 days after Easter), Pentecost (50 days after Easter) and Trinity (the Sunday after Pentecost) celebrate the belief that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reflect freedom and hope for all humankind.
 Through these feasts, the beliefs are affirmed that Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Ascension); that the Spirit of God has been given to all humankind (Pentecost); and that the truth of faith is best found in community, for the nature of God is best understood in a community of love (Trinity). In celebrating these feasts, as with the celebration of faith more generally, the important thing is not intellectual understanding. Faith is not about rational comprehension, it is about the glimpsing of a Mystery of Love which embraces the heart and leads to a profound sense of belonging and gratitude. These feasts are celebrated in a series of Eucharists, which means ‘thanksgiving’.

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Advent

Marking the beginning of the Church year, Advent is the four-week season that leads up to Christmas. It marks a season of hope as we await the coming of God. Advent is often treated as a time to silence the mind, to be still and to wait in expectation. It is also a ‘penitential’ season, where we acknowledge our need of forgiveness for the pain and divisions of the world, even as we look forward to a new one. Themes that emphasise waiting, confession and hope culminate in the Advent Carol Service on the evening of Advent Sunday.

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