A Wolverhampton church held its Maundy Thursday service a day early so a drop-in session for prostitutes could go ahead.
All Saints Church moved the traditional service marking the start of the Easter celebrations to Wednesday to ensure its outreach group can be held on its regular Thursday time, the Mail Online reports.
Last year the neighbourhood’s working girls were left disappointed when two consecutive sessions were cancelled because both Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on a Thursday.
The decision was taken by Reverend Sarah Schofield who said it was important that the church was a “reliable” place for women to attend.
The sessions have praised the initiative, which has been running since last August at the church in the centre of Wolverhampton’s red light district, as reflecting the core values of Christianity. It is run alongside national charities Changing Lives and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
“We want to be a reliable, safe and loving place for women, it is important to honour our promise and it has had a real impact on the whole church here,” she said.
“There is conversation, there is advice if any woman wants advice about employment or health or other issues.
“It is well received and it is appreciated. Christmas and New Year were on Thursday and we know we had disappointed people by cancelling the session for services.
“We had to take a vote in the congregation in January and it was 100 per cent in favour of moving the service.
“The story of Maundy Thursday is Jesus meeting with a number of people and he meets with women who are outcasts.
“One of the stories we tell on Maundy Thursday is about Jesus being anointed by a woman of low status and it felt wrong to cancel it.”
The decision was backed by the Bishop of Wolverhampton, Reverend Clive Gregory, who encouraged church goers to attend other services for their traditional Thursday service.
“This decision wasn’t taken lightly and there are other churches very close by where people can go to worship. It doesn’t come across as strange to me that All Saints would do this,” he said.
“I am very well aware of this project for street workers, it has been a great success in the last six months.
“It performs a very important service for vulnerable women and is exactly what Christian churches should be doing to help their community.”
But Reverend Graham Smith of The Good Shepherd Church in Low Hill said, ” ‘It is a long-standing tradition to have a Maundy Thursday ceremony and an important part of the Christian calendar.”
“On the other hand, if we remember what Jesus was all about, he would always remember the outcasts in society.
“For some of these drop-in sessions it can be quite hard to let people know what is going on if there is a change.
“So if people turn up to see it isn’t on one week, they may not come again.”
The original version of the Maundy Service involved the sovereign giving ‘Maundy money’ to the poor and washing their feet: a tradition which ended with the Glorious Revolution.
Today’s recipients of Royal Maundy consist of as many elderly men and women as there are years in the sovereign’s age. At the ceremony, the sovereign hands to each recipient two small leather string purses. One, a red purse, contains – in ordinary coinage – money in lieu of food and clothing; the other, a white purse, contains silver Maundy coins consisting of the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.