Every church with whom I’ve ever celebrated has made a lovely to-do about Holy Week and Easter. They all are different, which is part of the joy and excitement for me to celebrate in a new congregation. I am always excited to see how we do things here.
This year was my favorite by far. Let me tell you why.
We worked on making Holy Week personal. We gave people ways into Lent this year, with multiple resources, and then reinforced using them. My intention was to make it clear that all of Lent would be as significant as the effort we put into it. This led to a particularly personal experience for those of us who tried new practices.
We invited people into worship every day. From Palm Sunday until Easter, we had daily worship opportunities, both virtually and in person. In addition to the traditional services on Sunday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we added morning prayer on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I also produced a daily meditation which allowed people to reflect on the same material we were reflecting on in worship that day.
Each day of Holy Week covered the same day in Jesus’s last week. We used the opportunity to teach to make sure each worship event fit the day of Holy Week by reading the writer of Mark’s account. We celebrated Palm Sunday, then the two temple experiences, the anointing on Wednesday, etc. This helped connect us to the experience of Holy Week: of the disciples, of Jesus: and help put us into the story.
Our worship is already meaningful to me. At St. Stephen’s, we balance traditional Episcopal with more innovative thinking in liturgy and music already. So the opportunity to mess about a little more with the tradition was essential to me. This gave us the chance to use the tension between comfort and discomfort in our liturgical experience, reinforcing the big challenge of the week.
We respect and love each other. I have never felt as engaged with a congregation as I do with St. Stephen’s. I feel love and respect constantly and seek to share my own love and respect with everything I do. And the people genuinely take care of each other. We can be a pretty “heady” bunch, but we are committed and engaged, wanting to serve.
So we were willing to risk. I was told some time ago that we need to be reminded that this is important: we need to be pushed to participate, and we will. Therefore we need a risk to take and prompting on how to take it. Over the week, several people reached out to tell me that they participated in ways they hadn’t before. They allowed for the opportunity to let this season be different. This only happens in a place where love and respect produce a safe environment to push ourselves and one another.
These things didn’t just make this year a bit different for me, they made it better. More meaningful, more thoughtful, more emotional. And way more exhausting. As one of those loving parishioners posted to my Facebook page on Monday:
He described it as “Drew’s ‘selfie’ Sunday afternoon!!” See what I mean?
We intentionally made this Easter special by making our Holy Week more significant. And we did it together! I am thankful and grateful for all of the hard work by the liturgical gurus and sacristans who prepare our worship and worship space for our biggest worship events of the year. I am thankful and grateful for the ministry of our flower arrangers who make truly inspired works of art:
Plus, the ministries of our readers, acolytes, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, choir, and all those who engaged thoroughly in our worship this week deserve great thanks. Special thanks to Dennis, whose gift for liturgical vision is as significant as his gift for music, and whose exhaustive need to get the bulletins right is so rarely recognized.
This was a truly inspired Holy Week / Easter time.
Which brings us, in the end to one of the truisms of our faith: we may need rest sometimes, but the story never ends. For Jesus may be raised, but there is more for us to figure out. The story didn’t end with the resurrection. It keeps going, with a new, renewed vision. A better, fuller tomorrow.
A tomorrow for which we are now more prepared.