This week many of my ministerial-type colleagues, worship team leaders, music directors and so on are taking some much-deserved time off. For the past several weeks these faithful folks have led special Lenten studies, spent hours rehearsing plays, skits and music, studied, written and rehearsed thought-provoking sermons, led multiple Holy Week services and the list goes on and on. Then on Easter all the hard work came together–more or less–and countless souls were inspired by moving Easter morning services.
Then everyone involved heaved a collective sigh of relief and collapsed. What? You thought that big “thud” was the stone being rolled away from the tomb?
We had two wonderful services at Holy Covenant this Easter, as well. And yes, I was plenty tired by the time I went to bed last Sunday night. The focus of this post, however, is Holy Week–the week immediately preceding the glitz, glamour and pageantry of Easter morning. And it is entirely possible I just experienced my most meaningful Holy Week ever. And just what did I do to make Holy Week so meaningful this year?
By “nothing,” I mean I did not plan and conduct even one additional service. See, I’ve learned in the past couple of years that a large majority of our congregation isn’t big on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. So I now provide folks with options for these services which are held at other churches. In the past, we have shared Good Friday service responsibilities with local congregations. This year, however, no one was interested in doing so. “OK,’ I thought to myself, ‘now what?”
So this year I attended an amazing UU Seder at Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Church on Good Friday. I helped set the tables, took a turn reading, and helped clear the tables after the event. Still, I was not in charge of the event; and that fact alone did a lot to help me relax and enjoy the experience.
I spent Holy Saturday relaxing with coffee and the Sci-Fi channel during the morning, then working in our yard during the afternoon. I even reflected on the life of Jesus while I worked, too. This was not an intentional practice, either. Discarding dead winter vegetation and making room for the new spring plant life to breathe and grow just led me in that direction. Richard and I enjoyed a quiet Saturday evening dinner together, and then–because I am seriously not an early morning person–I spent about an hour at the church making sure everything was in order for Easter morning. That’s it.
So what made this year’s Holy Week so meaningful for me?
I believe because I was actually able to slow down and think about life, death and resurrection without all the well-intended insanity of the additional traditional Holy Week activities informed not only my Easter sermon–CSI: Jesus–but this reflective time also helped me release some old strongly held beliefs regarding what is most important during these often stressful seasons of the church year.
Don’t get me wrong; I have absolutely nothing against all the traditional activities offered by many churches during Easter and other seasons of the church year. You know me, if something helps deepen your connection with the Divine Presence already within you, go for it! At the same time, has anyone else ever wondered why seasons that are intended for careful reflection, renewal and joy often drain almost every ounce of energy we possess?
Is it possible that maybe–just maybe–we’re holding on to a few too many observances “just because”; and by doing so, we risk missing the intended messages of seasons like Easter? Are there ways we can renew and reform some of these services in ways that are less stressful for planners and participants while retaining their intended messages? Indeed, what would our community lives look like if we held fewer “special seasonal services,” and lived out the intended messages of those services year round?
Just something to consider…