I remember the look in her eyes, the horror when I told a young woman applying to seminary that Easter was my very least favorite holiday. I may or may not have added that the very thought of it made me physically ill. She took as few steps back and I could see the years of our friendship replaying in her mind. As confusion and concern began to set in on her face, I considered back-peddling; however, she was preparing for ministry, so I decided to be honest about the struggles of being clergy during Holy Week.
First of all, it’s a brutal story of the death of someone we deeply love. While wanting to honor all that Jesus did, rehearing the details of how he was tortured and then murdered makes my stomach turn. As a church leader, how do I present that in a way that feels worshipful? And that’s for the people who attend services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. For those who can only attend on Sundays, they go from the “hosannas” of Palm Sunday to the “Alleluias” of Easter, missing everything in between. How do we educate and lead worship in a way that doesn’t glaze over what happened between Sundays but isn’t macabre or emotionally manipulative, all while being appropriate for kids and others who may be sensitive to the rather graphic details of Jesus’ last hours? And thus, my stomachache.
If you also find Holy Week to be a challenge, especially in a congregation where several generations worship together, we have something you might find helpful. Sparkhouse Digital is offering “Praying Through Holy Week,” an intergenerational event with Bible readings followed by a choice of prayer practices that integrate science and crafts. While reliving the events of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, congregants can interact with the events of those days in a way that is thought provoking, has options for going deeper, and yet is approachable for kids and others for whom some details of Holy Week might be not be appropriate. All of these activities also include variations to make sure the events best meet the needs of your community, as well as suggestions if you would like to include meals. In addition to guiding participants through the week, there is a piece that takes place inside the church (available free on the Sparkhouse website in addition to being on Sparkhouse Digital), praying for the various people who will be coming to worship that week. There are prayers for visitors and members, as well as the individuals leading worship. These events can be done during an education hour, on Palm Sunday, or the Sunday before. You could do this after a worship service or even during the week as part of a church meeting or Bible study.
“Praying through Holy Week” is a beautiful event that can help build community across ages while reverencing Jesus’ gift to us. We pray for you as you prepare for this season. May you feel the challenge as well as grace of this holiest of weeks.