Experiencing Holy Week as a church worker

Mar 23, 2018 11:50:54 AM / by Bryan Bliss

Photo of a cross representing the crucifixion that we remember during Holy Week | Sparkhouse Blog

I’m embarrassed to admit that Holy Week, until I started working for a church, rarely raised to more than a blip on my radar. It’s not that I didn’t understand the liturgical rhythms of the church year—I was just focused on Easter. So, saying I wasn’t ready for the scramble of my first Holy Week is a drastic understatement.

But oh, I learned.

Holy Week and the church

Those first few years were spent in a constant state of confusion. (This, admittedly, was not confined to Holy Week preparation, but that’s a topic for a different blog.) I consistently felt overwhelmed by the week’s activities, as well as the exhausting range of emotions that were required to teach the story to the students in my youth group. And that doesn’t even get into actually participating in worship.

It never got easier. Not really. And I was always happy when Easter morning arrived.

Photo of spring flowers for Easter | Sparkhouse Blog

A career shift

And then, four years ago—10 years after I’d first come on staff—I left congregational ministry to join Sparkhouse and help develop dynamic and engaging curriculum for children, youth, and adults.

I’m not going to lie: that first year was glorious. I didn’t miss the lock-ins or the ski trips or the staff meetings. Suddenly, I could worship at any church I chose to attend. More so: I could go on vacation for a whole weekend if I so desired. All while still engaging my calling?

Yes, please.

But when Holy Week rolled around, something strange happened. I expected to blow through it in the same way I’d worshipped my way through Advent and Christmas—joyfully and without a stitch of nostalgia. But the closer it came to Palm Sunday, the more I realized something was very, very wrong.

That’s when it hit me: I missed working in a church.

I missed...working during Holy Week?

*Insert Wilhelm scream here*

Surprised face—you may actually love Holy Week! | Sparkhouse Blog

I’m joking (mostly), but there was no rational explanation for this—trust me, I tried to figure it out. I spent that Holy Week feeling like something was missing. Turns out, something really was.

Every year I was on staff, I rejoiced at the cries of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday and embraced the gratitude of Maundy Thursday. I felt the bleakness of the stripped altar on Good Friday and wallowed in the fear and pain of the Holy Saturday vigil. And on Easter, when I finally proclaimed, “He is risen!” with the rest of the congregation, I felt hope.

Rediscovering Holy Week

Do you have to be a church worker to connect with the story in this way? Of course not. But working in a church helped turn Holy Week into something important in my life. It became more than simply text on a page. It’s something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

This next week will be challenging for church workers in ways that often aren’t translatable to the people in our lives not actively working in ministry. There will be highs and lows. Surprises. Moments when the amount of time in the day will seem incompatible with the tasks and responsibilities on your plate.

But hopefully there will also be moments of reflection. Of peace. Moments when you can take a breath and think about what Holy Week means in your life, both as a church worker and as a person of faith.

This week, the Sparkhouse Blog wants to give you that moment.

Photo of a Bible, coffee, and the sun shining—perfect for quiet Holy Week reflection | Sparkhouse Blog

Each day, we’ll post a new reflection on Holy Week written by a pastor or church worker who has been there—who is in the midst of it right now. It might not make the job any less hectic, but maybe it will be a reminder that you’re not alone.

That what you’re doing is important and powerful and needed.

So, check back. Spend a few minutes recharging. And when you walk back into the wonderful chaos of this week, you’ll do so with the knowledge that you’ve made it through before. That you’ll make it through again.

Topics: General Ministry, Events and Holidays

Bryan Bliss

Written by Bryan Bliss

Bryan Bliss is a veteran youth pastor, curriculum developer, and novelist. He lives with his family in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


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