On holy week


Palm Sunday’s coming up. I’m not one of those people who tries to cram Palm Sunday and Passion into one Sunday morning. I’m just not sure that it’s fair to the celebration. And yet, we often just have a small handful of people who attend the Holy Week services… so I understand the logic of Passion/Palm Sunday.

Maundy Thursday’s growing more and more meaningful. We’re not so wild and crazy as to do a foot washing (I think Presbyterians have a thing about their feet…). We have a hand washing.

Holy Week’s been extremely memorable in the past. In my last church, the youth put together the Maundy Thursday service. The church was so excited to get the young people involved, that they had a high tolerance for creativity.

The service would be completely different every year. We would brainstorm ideas, I would pillage every good idea I had heard from other churches and present it to them. Then instead of picking one or two, we would use them all.

I’d get really nervous before the services. And then they would begin. We lit candles. We read poetry. We constructed giant (6′ X 4′) PVC frames, stretched a white sheet on them, and then we painted giant paintings on the back, so that the paint would soak through and appear on the sheet during the service (without the congregation seeing the person who painted it).

We created giant chalk drawings on black sheets. We made crowns from the thorny weeds we found in the marsh. We sang different music than everyone was used to.

We handed out nails–those fat, square concrete nails–to each person at the beginning of Lent. Then we made a cross out of old parking lot stops and those who were able would hammer nails into the cross as an act of repentance.

The high schoolers read and often wrote the liturgy. The teenagers were completely into the service, so everyone was very respectful. No complaining. And it was always very meaningful.

So what about you? What have been your most interesting traditions during this time? What’s been most meaningful? What do you look forward to? What would you do if you had the freedom? What are your plans?

photo’s by noe_carillo


5 thoughts on “On holy week

  1. we’ve been doing “passion” sunday instead of palm sunday ever since oh, about 1978 when our green worship book came out. I kind of like it, actually, since worship attendance at the evening services is less than spectacular, it gives people a chance to hear the whole narrative. In our church, we start with the Palm Sunday gospel and process into the church with a real live donkey. It’s quite festive, and the mood shift is palpable.

    I do miss preaching on Palm Sunday lessons, though.

  2. A few observations from the Scottish Presbyterian church, and a plea.

    First, my congregation gives new meaning to the words “non-liturgical.” Palm Sunday is exactly the same as another Sunday–no palms, no liturgy, no parading anywhere. I suppose they will sing a palmy hymn and read the text and sermon will be topical. A little disappointing for me as I enjoy switching things up a bit, but such is an internship.

    Second, Holy Week is big here. There’s a service every night in Holy Week and they are well attended, I’m told. Again, nothing creative–no anything washing, let alone feet–but I like that Holy Week is observed.

    Third, I’m preaching palm sunday and have a sermon discussion going on here. Stop by: palm sunday sermon workshop

  3. We do read the gospels describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and later the passion on this Sunday before Easter. With local schools on break starting Thursday afternoon, many, many of our families high-tail it south to warmer weather and grandparents there.

    We have created a new tradition for Maundy Thursday that I really appreciate. We begin the evening at 6 pm in our Christian life center with staff washing the hands of the 130 or so who are there. We then continue with a potluck dinner. After the dinner we read of the instituting of the Lord’ Supper. Then after a brief meditation and Eucharistic prayer, we share communion with one another around the tables where we just had a potluck.

    Then, as Jesus and the disciples did, we sing a hymn as we walk together to the sanctuary. There we have a time of confession and forgiveness, prayers of intercession, and the reading of Jesus’ betrayal and another meditation.

    Finally, as Psalm 88 (or in some years 22) is read from the balcony, the altar guild members completely strip the chancel of everything. All that is left is the bare table, pulpit and font.

    Then the pastors depart without benediction, and worshipers may stay or leave as they choose. It is very meaningful.

    We began this two years ago, when our former Fellowship Hall was decommissioned to make way for the Christian Life Center. Because that was happening the week after Easter, we dubbed it “the last supper”. But people so appreciated it, that we continued it last year and now this year as well. Many of our older members eat alone, and this , like our weekly Lenten dinners, provides good opportunity for relationships to begin and to grow.

  4. We did do a foot-washing on Maundy Thursday at Noe Valley Ministry. It isn’t as weird as it seems in the imagination. We set up tubs of warm water and lots of towels in the entryway. Pastors and deacons were the washers offering to wash the feet of everyone who came in. There was room to say no, but only a few said no. The trick to foot-washing is to do it slowly and carefully. It becomes an act of caretaking. People have inhibitions but inhibitions disappear when you see someone else receiving such a lovely act. At the end the pastors and deacons all washed each other’s feet (like serving each other last at Communion) and we went inside.

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