Holy Week When the World is Exploding Edition
Sounds just like Holy Week should be even if we would pray for anything else
Pull up a chair, dear pastors. It’s time to feast and you may be starved for ideas as the days of Lent add up. Get ready again to fill up your plate inspiration for Holy Week this year — and maybe even save some ideas for next year.
Welcome to another potluck that I’m so glad to host full of ingredients and recipes for your worship and ministry. I confess it’s been a little strange for me to not post weekly prayers. It became such a weekly practice for me that I am always feeling like I’ve forgotten something. I so appreciate the space to focus on my call to spiritual direction. I’ve taken on a rather full slate of clients and it is such good stuff.
I’m so grateful for those of you that downloaded and used Our Whole Hearts for Lent. I’ve blushed several times with your kind words and am so glad its enriching your worship. I had expected to release something for Holy Week that would be more coherent and thematic but that isn’t going to happen this year. I did write something for Maundy Thursday. You can find more about that here but let’s settle in and share in this feast.
Let’s not start with Sunday though. Let’s start with the thing that will take the most amount of planning and will be totally worth it. It could be used during Holy Week or could be used not that first Sunday after Easter where every pastor is so exhausted. Wouldn’t it be a great day for an Easter Pageant? Heck yes, it would!
This script was written with one of my former youth and includes all of their great wisdom. They do all kinds of theology now and are super, super smart while also being tender and wise. It was super fun to write and it does include some pandemic moments that would still add some levity. Or they could be edited to reflect some truth of this very moment. There is lots of room for your good people to imagine a powerful way to share this good news for our time. There are tons of suggestions and ideas but it will really come alive with the wisdom shared in community. I only offer this caution: this Easter Pageant comes with a lot of video editing. Do this only if you have a tech person that your congregation has hired for you.
I think it would be really compelling to begin worship with this Call to Worship. I’d be so interested where it might lead especially if you were to play on the word defense through the rest of the service. This parade is, after all, an act of resistance. So where do we push? It makes me think back this idea from MaryAnn McKibben Dana that I was never brave enough to try.
I also wonder how that Call to Worship might pair with this confession on power and forgiveness from enfleshed. If you haven’t been following along with their offerings this Lent, they’ve been really fantastic. I would recommend joining their email list so that you’re enticed to buy a weekly subscription.
You might also find inspiration from these prayers from 2021 (which is of course the wrong lectionary cycle) and a couple of other prayers here. There is also this complete liturgy for Palm and Passion Sunday that incorporates a lot of silence. I think this could actually work really well for this year though I did just write this adaptation of Psalm 118 for the Living Psalm Project which also has me wondering about how songs from the psalter could frame this day or even the whole week.
Though this is my favorite celebration of the entire year, I had only this confession and assurance in my resources. This is a complete mystery to me as I sat down to gather all the ingredients together for this potluck so I decided to write something new. It’s a Tenebrae service because this feels like the year for a Tenebrae service but I wasn’t excited about the options I found.
As the Cooking for Ukraine movement grows and grows, this might be the year to invite folks to taste new bread like any one of these traditional Ukrainian breads. I hope and pray that this nightmare is over before Easter but the costs of war last much longer than when the last tank retreats. You might find more inspiration for your baking from Edible Theology. They have a treasure trove of resources both on their website and their new podcast Kitchen Meditations. I asked for permission to share this recent meditation from one of their newsletters that might be used as inspiration.
We are broken. Everything is broken. Let us spend some serious time contemplating this fact as we break the bread and pour out love again and because of this, this poem by Maren Tirabassi feels needed. It would work well with this Communion liturgy. If you are looking to innovate with tradition, especially at times like these, consider something like this. What would it look like to transform our neighborhoods with love?
You might also choose to expand the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer tonight with this version by Kim Sorrells. There are betrayals and microagressions in how we choose our words. Lord knows, I’m still learning this and we can all do better as we seek to love every child of God.
Old First UCC is taking their Maundy Thursday worship outside this year. There will be another option as well, but at least one of their services will be outside. So I wondered, what could we do outside that we can’t do indoors? What are the opportunities here? Let’s bake! Kneaded Love is a short worship service that I’ve just completed with a hand washing, kneading and baking bread. Order here.
Last but not least, I found a suggestion on one of the pages I trust to do a seder and gasped. Oh, friends, I hope I didn’t need to say this. Please don’t do a seder of any kind. If you are even a tiny bit tempted, read this.
I’ve been thinking back to two years ago when I attended my first Good Friday worship on Zoom. It was a Stations of the Cross experience that evoked the hardships of the pandemic and I cried all the way through it. It’s made me wonder what a Stations of the Cross might look like this year when the world is exploding. It might be enough to tell the story. Or it might be important to share in the traditional fourteen stations focused on victims of war. It was written in 2006 so it won't reference the present conflict in Ukraine but it might work well enough to use stills from the news as art.
Or if you know that you are going to adapt anyway to make this all that it needs to be for your good people, perhaps this would be a good starting place of your thinking. I did a walking stations in my last call inspired by Nadia Bolz-Weber’s work and it was really meaningful. If you opt for that route and choose a stop to honor trans* lives, maybe this is the prayer that would conclude that station. There's something about there rain in this prayer from the Religious Institute that feels like Good Friday to me.
There are also some good resources out there for Stations of the Cross especially for children. Check out these ideas to use on their own or to help create a more intergenerational experience.
This is a day for lamentation and we have so much to lament right now as a global community. I found this Kyrie from Ukraine while looking for something for Lent on Singing from the Lectionary and it’s lovely. It seems easily singable and there is sheet music that can be found here because a Kyrie should really be sung. It might even be the song you sing as you move from station to station.
Another song possibility that would be harder with movement but still really powerful would be slats toole’s How Can We Cry for Justice. Please be sure to support their work if you use this hymn by Venmo at @callmeslats.
The talented women at the BRIM Project recently offered this Wounded Prayer Station idea in their newsletter. I loved it and am sharing it with permission. You might also click over to check their other free resources especially if you like this one. The Wounded Station follows.
This is a tryptch station, or a station in 3 parts with 3 images and experiences.
MATERIALS: (3) images--wounded feet on a road, battered hands open, heart that is broken and/or companion art images from painters (either contemporary or modern) *note: be sure you have permission to use the images and give appropriate credit, Phrases printed out and set in front of each corresponding image, Bowls, pens, paper, tablecloth, candles
May the Christ who walks on wounded feet walk with you on the road.
What is one difficult step you are avoiding? (write it down and place your offering in the bowl.)
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands stretch out your hands to serve.
What is one act of service you commit to this week? (write it down and place your offering in the bowl.)
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart, open your hearts to love.
How will you love yourself this week? (write it down and place your offering in the bowl.)
If you used Our Whole Hearts, this offers a wonderful connection to that theme but it would work in so many different worship experiences. It might, however, be weird to have just one station in your Good Friday worship experience. You might have a few other ideas shared into your files but if you’re feeling dry, Theresa Cho always has wonderful ideas. Or maybe these Prayer Doves for Peace that Traci Smith recently shared in her newsletter goes along with wounded hearts.
Last year, I wanted a bonfire. I wanted reason to gather outside with others and believe against all hope that the resurrection is real. I created this short, simple service that anyone can lead called Easter Watch for free download. It feels just as needed this year, frankly.
Spending time in the tomb is always important to me on Holy Saturday. I want some quiet contemplation and some time to process all that has happened. There are a whole bunch of wonderful resources online now that it might be worth sharing some links for retreat resources for this day. This is the one that I love most though there are lots of options.
I always found the hardest part of Easter Sunday was figuring out how to share the story with children with the right amount of joy and not too much watered down nonsense. Amelia Dress, who also has a great children’s book about Easter, comes to the rescue with this children’s sermon.
There may be no reason for this kind of Easter Egg Hunt this year. I hope there’s an Easter Egg Hunt though and maybe you’re looking to change things up and focus on outreach. This is such a good idea.
I also really like this prayer-poem from Maren Tirabassi inspired by Howard Thurman. It could be a wonderful benediction for this year.
Easter is one of those days that I find it really hard to find amazing liturgy. I don’t even think I have things of my own that are any good. There are some prayers for Easter in my archives but I don’t like them so I’m not going to bother linking to them. That’s apparently how I feel about Easter prayers right now. Do you have favorites? Are there wonderful traditions in your congregation that really bring home the power of this moment for you? I’d love to hear your ideas as something is still simmering for me on this one.
I have been writing stations for Easter this week for Seasons of the Spirit and just wrote up one for an Easter Garden. I like mine better but I had never heard of growing wheat. I love the symbolism and this might be a fun thing for the whole season of Easter. (I found inspiration from some Montessori blogs for my Easter Garden. The are lots if you’re interested.)
Especially at a time like this, we need inspiration and courage to find meaningful words. We need practice saying kind and generous things to each other and to ourselves. These Pandemic Easter Affirmations are free to download and might be a great blessing to your community. I also offer a recipe for Resurrection Awe Walks that could be used throughout the Easter season.
I also think that these 50 Days of Spiritual Practice for the whole season of Easter created by Traci Smith would be worth the purchase for your good people.
These great 50 days conclude with the celebration of Pentecost for which I created this free moment of wonder and delight called Wind Power. There are so many things that could be in this moment that we catch the Spirit’s movements and I pray that these things from my kitchen help to add spice to your cooking up something delicious and nourishing for the whole people of God.
What a remarkable Easter basket. This year I am not serving a church for Holy Week (yep start for another six weeks with Thomas) but this is so good I want to share it with everyone! Thanks for finding old poems that I do not even remember.