Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

(from the archives--about our experiences at our sending church, Church of the Resurrection. We hope that Light of Christ will develop similar strengths. We'll be having our first-ever outdoor processional today!)

Palm Sunday is one of the most joyful days of our church year. We begin the service outdoors, with a long processional that begins on the sidewalk by the street and wends its way up the driveway of the high school where our church meets. Most of us stand and watch, waving our palm branches and singing as the priests, deacons, prayer ministers, banner bearers and dancers pass by, following the cross lifted high. Then we fall in behind them, entering the school and continuing into the auditorium, still singing and waving our palms. It is an occasion for true, heartfelt joy and celebration for the children and adults alike.

From To Dance With God (by Gertrud M. Nelson):

"Remember, we are a marvelously human lot, and our feeling and passion was never meant to be checked at the church doors. If sports can bring thousands to shouting and waving flags and banners, what is it about our church-related rituals that make so many reticent and self-conscious? Liturgy is exactly concerned with what is most human about us. Theology and history do not tell us everything we need to know about religion. Beyond the rational, ritual and symbol allow us to risk powerful feeling expressions within the safety of a discipline or form. The powerful liturgy of these holy days must tap also our deepest and most human place, the feelings of the human heart... Yes, we risk putting ourselves out. But to hold back or deny out of fear is to deny people a form to contain their human expression; it is to rob people of a religious life."

I have never known a church which provides such an environment for worship as ours. Freedom of expression is everywhere, yet within the safe bounds of the liturgy, you never worry that it will go off the rails. A college student told me recently that he came back because of the father who hoisted his little son to his shoulders during the worship. A relatively new member of our church said, "I'd never stand up in the middle of a hymn and throw my hands up in the air, but I need that other guy who does!" The arts flourish there--we have banner makers, floral artists, carpenters, liturgical dancers, dramatic readers and incredible musicians who exercise their gifts in our body. And this week--Holy Week--is when we pull out the stops!

We cancel all other church meetings this week, but have services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (usually 4 hours) on Saturday night, then Easter Sunday morning. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of church for even ADULTS to sit through--but guess what our kids say?

"I'm so glad that Holy Week is here--it's got all my favorite services!" (Blondechick 13)

Photos courtesy of Ray Wu.


TwoSquareMeals said...

We loved that atmosphere at Church of the Great Shepherd when we were up there. Holy Week was so exhausting but so amazing! We are at a much smaller and less charismatic AMiA church now, but we still love the experience. Have a blessed week.

Anonymous said...

We had a fabulous Palm Sunday here with about 90 people, but it was still nothing like a Rez celebration (people are too afraid to really get into it! I love your quote and am going to pass it around). Anyways, my parents went to Rez this morning (they were in Chicago) and they said it was the most amazing Palm Sunday Worship they have every been to! They were really excited. They saw John and Vu and Sheryl and it was great. Next we have to get them to visit your church and maybe my dad could play the violin for worship! We'll have to get you in touch...


Jenny in Ca said...

wow Hen, that sounds just wonderful. What a neat event to be part of.