Friday, March 23, 2012

Lent with Kids

My friend Anne Kennedy blogged today about NOT observing Lent with small children, and anyone who is very involved with Holy Week preparations will enjoy reading why!

But underneath the somber austerity is a grinding mill of extra work. Lent into Holy Week is the busiest most intense time of the church year, more than Christmas by far, and the Extra Work at church.....I don't even know how to describe it. Well, let me try anyway.

At Light of Christ, we have no full-time staff, but we've tried to get more and more organized each year with how we do Holy Week. We have a coordinator for each Holy Week service--Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (including an afternoon Stations of the Cross service), Easter Vigil and Easter Day.  The coordinator has a checklist--which we are always tweaking--of all the extras needed for each of those services. For example, bins and towels for footwashing, someone to tend the Holy Fire outside the Vigil, next year let's make a diagram of how we set up the Stations if it flows well this time, we need to indicate such-and-such in the bulletin next year.

My job has been to oversee readers and readings for the week.  Mostly that means planning and rehearsing something for the Passion reading on Palm Sunday--traditionally a Reader's Theater type of reading--and getting creative with the nine readings included in Easter Vigil, asking people to participate, creating a rehearsal schedule and possibly banners and other props, then rehearsing with all those folks a couple times, each, times nine.

It really does take over any spare time one might have for reflection during Lent!

Like Anne, I appreciate the austerity of Lent, and the one tradition we have as a family is to not serve desserts during Lent. To me, this doesn't mean my children cannot eat the candy their friend shares with them or we don't eat dessert if it is served at someone else's house--it just means we won't be serving it at home.  And it's great for them learn that dessert is optional, rather than an essential part of one's diet!  Likewise, during Lent I often try to not buy lots of extra groceries, but to try and use up stuff from the bottom of the freezer or back of the pantry shelves.  It's sort of a simplicity/austerity mindset I try to adopt.

With the kids, in the past we have had some special devotional times leading up to Lent, talked about fasting, and encouraged them to pick one thing to fast from during Lent (besides dessert).  One year, they all gave up sugar cereal, and on Easter morning, they all got a box of the sugariest stuff I could buy!  (I never bought sugar cereal when there were just three of them; I made oatmeal with peanut butter and brown rice syrup most mornings.  Then when I did start buying cold cereal for them, they had to mix sugar cereal with plain cereal.  Now, alas, they all eat straight sugar cereal, but only a few approved kinds that have a better sugar/protein balance than most.  But at least they can eat breakfast without me! The older ones make eggs for themselves too, and sometimes even oatmeal with peanut butter and honey. )

Where was I?  Oh, yes, Lenten devotions.  This year, with the three youngest in school, family devotions just haven't been happening. So we haven't talked much about Lent at all this year, but like Anne, I refuse to feel guilty.  Unlike Anne, we have big kids who are old enough to participate with us in the Holy Week services as acolytes, readers, musicians, sound technicians and go-fers at rehearsals.  (Actually, only our youngest and our daughter in college--who's participated plenty in the past--are not involved in Holy Week this year.)

The only thing I occasionally feel slightly guilty about is that we spend so much time in church during Holy Week--and getting ready for Holy Week before that--that it's hard to find time at home to dye Easter eggs or make Resurrection cookies or plan an Easter egg hunt.  At least I usually manage to fill an Easter basket for each of them and hide it somewhere in the house, and they get to search for those on Easter morning. I usually remember to make sure they have Easter outfits for Sunday morning that they don't wear to one of the other services.  And somehow, I manage to pull off Easter dinner at my house after church, although every year I think this will be the year we eat cold cereal for Easter dinner.  But Easter eggs...optional.  The Easter Vigil on Saturday night trumps Resurrection cookies every time--and all other services of the church year, for that matter.  When they're old enough, they can dye eggs without me, like they did last year.

The thing that I know my kids will always remember about this season is the anticipation of joy that climaxes at Easter.  It begins with a somber heads-up at Ash Wednesday and the shock of no dessert afterward.  It builds with all the extra preparations for Holy Week, then as we journey through Holy Week itself, and especially at the Easter Vigil as we settle in for a long night, beginning in darkness and culminating with light, dancing, rejoicing and celebrating that our Lord has risen!  For them, Easter is a much bigger spiritual holiday than Christmas.  And every year, when they are super excited that it is Holy Week, I know we're doing something right.


Janice Skivington said...

Resurrection cookies? Please share with us/me the recipe for these. Just the name sounds great, I want to make these-if I ever have time by Easter Day!
Your Lenten/ Easter Vigil family rituals sound like ours. One year after we had all suffered through a long Lent with no desserts, My husband shouted Allelujah after the Saturday night service and surprised the kids with a trip to Oberweis for ice cream. Why was Oberweis open that late at night? The kids were beyond happy and I think they really felt the joy of Easter.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Good catch--I meant to link to Resurrection cookies!

It's fun to hear another family's memories, too. Yes, why WOULD Oberweis have been open that late?? Maybe just for us Anglicans. ;)


Annie said...

I think of the cookies and the gardens as object lessons-- they point to Jesus... but never as well as the actual process of worship. In a church where the worship is not very participatory (I think of my church growing up, where the worship service was about the sermon + choir music, instead of liturgy and Word and Eucharist, all of which the children can participate in at some level) those object lessons fill a need. When my children look forward to the bells at the service and their favorite readings and the candles... then some of those other things seem superfluous.
I always think of your children at Easter Vigil... when they were all so little and I watched how much work for you-- and yet you were always there, worshiping with them. Your example helped me know that *that* was how I wanted to parent.

At A Hen's Pace said...


Ah, thank you! That's a great perspective.

And what memories! I miss those days when all six of them sat with me every Sunday, in the second row, with their dad on the stage, even though yes, it was constant attention to them all. Now they sit with the other acolytes, or teens, or in the back mixing sound...and it's usually just the two youngest with me now.

Thanks for reminding me.