Webteam: April 2015
Jesus said: I give you a new commandment: Love one another: As I have loved you, so you are to love one another. The opening words after the processional hymn 'Praise to the holiest in the height' of the Maundy Thursday service held on this year on the 2nd April at Sheffield Cathedral and attended by three members of our Circuit, Edith Bird, Bill Marsden and Hilary Simmons who had been nominated by the Dean of the Cathedral to receive this year's Maundy money. Nominated because of the Christian service they give to the Church and the community which would not be otherwise honoured. The service is an abbreviated form of an ancient ceremony commemorating Jesus' action in washing his disciples' feet, a service that has taken place since the sixth century.
The distribution of alms and the washing of feet on the Thursday of Holy Week are of great antiquity. The Royal Maundy can be traced back in England to the thirteenth century. From the fifteenth century the number of recipients has been related to the years of the monarch's life, received by those of the same sex as the monarch until the eighteenth century when they have numbered as many men as women as the monarch's age. Though the act of washing the feet seems to have discontinued in about 1730 the Lord High Almoner and his assistants still wear linen towels in remembrance and carry the traditional nosegays of sweet herbs.
Each recipient receives two leather purses. The red purse contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provisions, formerly given in kind. Our purses contained a £5 Churchill commemorative coin and a 50p Battle of Britain commemorative coin. The white purse contains the Maundy coins, silver penny coins, two pence coins, three pence coins and four pence coins to the value of eighty nine pence. These are contained in nine plastic wallets. Maundy coins are legal tender and since decimalisation the face value of a set of four coins is ten pence.
The service lasted an hour with readings, prayers and hymns, the third and final one being 'All for Jesus' which sums up our service to the Church and the community for which we were being honoured. Our own District Chair, Rev Gill Newton spoke the last of the prayers. The first distribution of the Maundy followed the first lesson, John 13: 1-15 and the second followed the second reading, Matthew 25: 31-46. During the distribution the choirs of the Sheffield Cathedral and the Her Majesty's Chapel Royal sang from the scriptures to music composed by Bruckner, Farrant, Samuel Wesley, Pablo Casals and Handel. This is the only award ceremony that the Queen goes to the recipients; she receives from the Secretary, of the Royal Almonry, the purses which are passed to him by a member of the Yeoman of the Guard. It was a very quick presentation, the men bowed, the ladies curtsied, she placed the purses into your hands, smiled at you and there was hardly any time for you to acknowledge the gift with a 'thank you Your Majesty' before she had moved onto the next person. Four Children of the Royal Almonry, selected from schools in the Diocese of Sheffield, were at the rear of the procession. They wore the symbolic linen towels, newly made at Buckingham Palace in 2011, other members wore linen towels which date from 1883.
Attending the service and receiving from the Queen the Maundy purses was the most memorable part of the day but we have other memories. The sun shone, the Cathedral bells rang as we arrived and every one made us feel special. It started at Meadowhall where marshals directed us to reserved parking, then police and RAF cadets conducted us to the tram stop. Because we had to wait for the second of the special trams a nearby office opened its canteen for us to sit in. Everyone was so very friendly and so pleased that we were being honoured in this way. The centre of Sheffield was closed but our special supertram was able to take us directly to the Cutlers' Hall. Our companions went direct to the Cathedral. Of course there were the security checks but these were speedily carried out. Drinks were available for us and we were given our name badges. Then we were led across to the Cathedral to our seats directly in front of our companions. After the service we went back to the Cutler's Hall for lunch which had been kindly provided by the Cutlers' Company Charitable Trust. A lunch of chicken, leek and ham pie or vegetable pie with a mash of potatoes and vegetables and green beans followed by trifle was served to us. There was even a can of Foster's by each place setting which we ladies passed to the men at the table. We returned to Meadowhall by supertram. But the day was not over for we were met by ladies from Meadowhall who gave us a single white stem rose.