Tell me. Show me. Let me try. That progression is a time- and experience-tested arc of learning that allows for explanation, observation, and supported execution of a desired skill. Many of us have likely used this straightforward method to support the building of concrete skills: using scissors, assembling a puzzle (always do the outside edge first!), dancing motions to a song. What about our Christian faith and understanding of theology, and more specifically, our young people's faith and theology? Are we using every creative opportunity to not just tell our youth about God, but also show and invite our kids into active faith practice and practically applied theological understanding?
Many congregations I encounter have robust ministries of service and outreach. Fellowship opportunities are easily available. Those aspects of Christ's body can be lived as well as learned. Too often, however, when I speak to youth, the biblical core of our shared faith, spiritual practices, and aspirational values are listened to but rarely made real with the visual or physical in the same way. As the Triduum, or Great Three Days, approaches, I invite us to look to some of the church's oldest traditions for a new take on embodied faith.
Maundy Thursday liturgical traditions include foot washing and physically stripping the altar or worship space to echo the humility and care Jesus showed his disciples before being stripped by soldiers preceding his crucifixion. Opportunities abound to speak about and practice consent, care during times of vulnerability, and service that is humble and affectionate, rising out of relationship rather than us/them acts of charity. What acts of care might we offer each other instead of, or in addition to, foot washing to show we value one another and consider each other equal? Ideas as simple as adding pronouns to our name tags or working together to build a wheelchair-friendly ramp or bookshelf for inclusive books can support this learning.
On Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross can be marked with original or symbolic art pieces, physically walked through indoors or outside in nature. An afternoon "Tre Ore" or an evening "Tenebrae" are helpful spaces to teach and try meditation, body prayer, praying with a focus object like a candle to improve centering and focus, and empathy as a learned skill.
The Easter Vigil is an actual bonfire, a releasing of what we have been holding onto from the previous year so that a new year may begin. What might your young people release to the fire before renewing their baptism with water? How can the stories of God's promises to God's people become theatre, an intentional gratitude practice, or prayer journal?
This Living Lutheran article contains short, accessible descriptions and explanations of ways congregations have historically honored the Triduum, or the Great Three Days. Artists Mary Button and Paul Oman also have engaging art specifically for the Great Three Days that is meant to be interactive. May your Triduum service with your young fellowship of faith by rich, reverent, and real!