Those of you who have followed by blog for the last few years have probably wondered, “Where is she?” I have not posted in a while but it was on purpose. God did a cool thing and interrupted my life with His presence and rest.
Last week (April 1-5), I had the opportunity to spend a week at St. Meinrad’s Archabbey in southern Indiana. St. Meinrad’s houses a Benedictine monastery as well as a seminary and retreat center. Although I went with a cohort from my doctorate program, nearly 8 hours of our day, which started at 5 am as we joined the monks for prayer, was spent in silence, solitude and contemplation. On Monday, we turned over our phones and other communication devices and committed to a full week of retreat to focus on spiritual formation, prayer, and time with Jesus.
The week was more beneficial to me than I could have imagined. I was astounded with how retreat and rest could do so much not only for me spiritually but also physically and emotionally.
Part of the blessing was being able to share this remarkable time with my doctorate cohort representing 12 different denominations and 4 countries. One of my cohort mates had a particularly special word to share about Holy Week and its implications to us as believers and especially the impact on children and youth in our congregations. While your faith community may not enter into all the practices she describes here, I know that each of us do celebrate the Resurrection and I pray her words will bless you as they have me.
Thoughts on Holy Week
by Sandra Malone
Some people look at Holy Week and think “too many services” or “the children will be bored”, but I’m urging us to pause and look at Holy Week through fresh eyes.
Why? The events of Holy Week are at the heart of what we believe as Christians as we recall Jesus’ suffering and his death and resurrection, and as we remember that it was for us.
Without those events, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for a restored relationship with God; without those events there would be no Easter/Resurrection Sunday to celebrate. There would, in fact, be no Christian religion.
And, if you’re worried about the children being bored, think of all the sensory “stuff” to catch their attention.
Palm crosses and palm branches being waved on Palm Sunday and a procession, no less.
Then there’s the anointing in Tuesday’s healing service and the drama of candles being extinguished one by one during Tenebrae on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Eucharist is celebrated in the context of the Gospel reading, which is fleshed out as we imitate Jesus’ foot washing and share a simple agape meal, followed by the stripping of the altar – a ritual which never fails to tug at my heart.
If you still think that’s not enough to keep you and the children interested, on Friday there’s the stark simplicity of the Good Friday Liturgy, conducted in a bare sanctuary where the Passion Gospel is acted out and we become the crowd calling for our Saviour’s crucifixion. And then comes the silence before the cross.
Saturday there’s the kindling of the new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle and its procession up the aisle with the reminder in the Exsultet that “to redeem a slave, God sent a Son”. During Saturday evening’s service, we also once more declare ourselves to be members of the redeemed family of God by renewing our Baptismal Vows and we’re reminded of our own baptisms as we are sprinkled with holy water.
If we come with open eyes and ears and hearts, there is nothing in any of that which could be considered even remotely boring!
While there are references in the events of Holy Week that are disturbing for us all – betrayal, violence, death – these are real things that we face in our lives, things that we can talk about with our children.
If they’re little, tell them about what they’re going to hear and place the emphasis on what Jesus was doing for us. And don’t be afraid to spoil the ending, let them know that Easter follows Good Friday.
Whatever their age, help them to engage – let them draw what they get from what’s going on, let them ask questions, let them tell you what they heard and how they felt, and … listen!
Holy Week is an essential part of who we are as Christians and it’s a great time for us to deepen our spiritual walk. So don’t use it as an excuse to stay home or to leave the children behind. Come to church this week as a family and let us join again as members of the Body of Christ as we share in the story of God’s saving grace.
Let’s teach our children that though egg hunts and chocolate bunnies are fun, the new life we celebrate at Easter is far more important and way more thrilling than any of that.
Let’s give ourselves, and our children, the gift of reflection and presence this Holy Week.
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About the Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and ChurchLeaders.com