Did you know the handwoven crosses you receive on Palm Sunday came all the way from Tanzania?

Dating back to when Reverend Crauford Murray was vicar (1987-2002) here at St Barnabas, we have been purchasing our Palm Sunday woven crosses through an organisation called African Palms.

African Palms, and the Palm Cross Project, was founded by Reverend Alan Talbot in 1965. 

Revd Talbot was born in Leyton, East London.

After serving in World War II as a navigator in bomber command, he read Philosophy, Politics and economics at Oxford University and then went to the College of The Resurrection in Mirfield.

He was ordained as a priest in 1952, and from 1963, worked in a very remote area of the Masasi Diocese in Southern Tanzania.

During his time, he was visited by two English Botanists who identified and confirmed that the bushes of reeds that grew wild around the village were Palm. 

Revd Talbot had recently read that the making of Palm Crosses in Devon had come to an end and he had an idea that the villagers could make some extra money for essentials such as salt by plaiting palm leaves. (The people’s daily work is the planting of maize, millet and some ground nuts to feed themselves and their families.)

This wouldn’t interfere with their work as farmers and gave them dignity in earning their own money. He sent these Palm Crosses back to friends in the UK with the aim that they should try and sell them. They proved popular, so he sent more back.

He returned to the UK in 1969 and continued the project which grew. He was delighted when all denominations started to use the crosses uniting so many Christians on Palm Sunday. 

Palm Crosses are now sold all around the world from the UK to Hong Kong.

Revd Talbot passed away in 2018 aged 95. At his funeral, Father Henry from African Palms USA told of how Palm Crosses had affected millions of people in Tanzania over the years, both through the work of making the crosses and through money leftover being used in education and healthcare projects. It is amazing how such a small idea could affect and encourage people in their daily lives around the world.

On the day of his funeral, he was remembered in all the parishes of the Diocese of Masasi, Tanzania in a special service.

So when you receive your palm this Sunday, know that it has been on quite a journey to get to you!

Put them somewhere central as a focus for reflection during Holy Week & Easter, such as above your kitchen sink or on bathroom mirror, or use it as a bookmark in your Bible. Below is a prayer you might like to pray while reflecting this week.

A Palm Cross Prayer

Look at your palm cross. Focus on the top of your cross.

Eternal God, you are the king of glory, yet in Jesus you showed us that power does not have to flow down from the top, but that you are with us, waiting, longing and hoping we’ll turn to you. We praise and adore you, joining in the cries of ‘Hosanna’. You are our God, ahead of us, leading us, guiding us and calling us. You are the Lord God, the all-wise, the all compassionate, and we lift our hearts in worship, thanking you for Christ and his selfless act of salvation for us.

Focus on the bottom of your cross.

Merciful God, we’re sorry when we let you down, when we’re not the people you would have us be, when we’re afraid to be different, when we’re afraid to make a statement, when we go along with the crowd, all too ready to join in the cries of ‘Crucify’. We lay our failings at the foot of the cross, seeking not only your forgiveness, but your help to leave them there, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Look at the cross beam and focus on the left end as we pray for others.

We pray for your Church, the body of Christ on earth. Unite us and help us discern what you are saying to us.

We pray for the world, which you lent us in your love. Help us to share rather than waste, to save rather than pollute, to treasure rather than exploit. We pray especially at this time that the coronavirus will be stemmed, and pray for all those infected and affected by the virus, particularly all those on the frontline.

We pray for the leaders of the nations. We pray for wisdom, not rhetoric; peace, not war; fairness, not injustice.

We pray for those who suffer, suffer for their gender, suffer for their sexuality, suffer for the colour of their skin, suffer for their faith, suffer for not being like us, suffer because, like us, they desire a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

We pray for members of our church family, thinking particularly today of …

We pray for our families and friends, holding before God those whose needs are known to us …

Now move your eyes to the right end of the cross.

We pray for ourselves, that we might see where you are at work and join in, that we might see you in others, and that we might be as Christ to them. Help us truly to love our neighbours as ourselves.

We ask these prayers in the precious name of our blessed Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

By Tania Wright