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Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Monday Musings

One of the beauties of our ecumenical webring is learning from the different ways we observe our holy days and the practices and traditions that may appear in varied forms or not at all depending on our denominations or local habits and preferences.

On Holy Monday, looking ahead to the rest of the week, what do you anticipate particularly? Is there some practice you love or perhaps something you miss from an earlier time in your life? Anything in your current church that has surprised you or added to your experience of Holy Week?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. 


  1. When I was a teenager, it became my practice to go to church every morning during Holy Week before going to school. It is a habit I have carried into my ministry. We will celebrate Eucharist tonight and tomorrow night. On Wednesday, the choir director and I will chant the psalms for Tenebrae which will be led by the deacon.
    My growing up church did a potluck on Maundy Thursday but we do a simple meal of cheeses, Foot washing is a new addition - new being more than 30 years now - in the Episcopal Church. I start it off and invite others to wash and be washed in turn.
    ON Good Friday, we will do The Way of the Cross followed by the GOod Friday liturgy. We offer Eucharist from the reserved sacrament as well.
    And Saturday, the shortest of all liturgies, happens in the morning before the Altar Guild begins decorating for the next morning.

    Last year, I got really upset by how few people came to church each night. By Thursday, God had managed to get me to listen long enough to realize that I offer liturgy for those who want to come and not for those who don't, that I should delight in the two or three and stop fussing about the other 150. It takes some of the pressure off. I'll start tonight's sermon with a piece by Kathleen Norris and then say a few words about Mary, sister of LAzarus and Martha. Tomorrow the deacon will preach and Thursday isn't close enough yet to worry about.

  2. In my first parish, I offered a simple prayer service with silence, chants, and hymns, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. I served a very small congregation in a very small rural town, and it was always a small gathering - usually no more than 5 or 6 of us. We sat facing each other, and it was always so intimate. I loved it. We would have a longer prayer service on Maundy Thursday, which would include Communion and the stripping of the sanctuary (including picking up the palm branches from the floor - we would leave them there from Palm/Passion Sunday through the Thursday night service, so they were under our feet every night for prayer). For Good Friday we would gather for a Tenebrae service.

    I really miss those early years of my ministry. Holy Week felt so holy to me, even with the stress of the Easter sermon hanging over my head. It helped that I had no other preaching commitments during Holy Week - just leading people in prayer.

    In my current congregation, we inherited a shared Maundy Thursday service with a couple of other Baptist churches, as well as a shared Community Good Friday service on Friday afternoon. We introduced the Tenebrae service for Good Friday night, and I still love that service so much. I have many more obligations than I did in my first parish, so I have never even considered offering prayer services for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. But I still miss it.

  3. Forgot to say that many more congregants came to our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services in my first parish than to those additional prayer services. But what I really remember is those super-small gatherings early in Holy Week.

  4. I miss going to church services each day of Holy Week. I did this in seminary and really loved it.
    I am glad to not be responsible for planning them though!
    Our coummunity churches have had Lenten Lunches each week. We go to a different church on Wednesday and a free lunch of soup, sand. and dessert are provided by the congregation. The pastor then has a brief message or devotional and we usually sing a couple of hymns
    Great time of fellowship and community gathering.
    Oh, and some yummy, yummy food

  5. earthchick, I can understand why those memories are so dear to you.
    Margaret, it can be very hard to remember not to judge worship by the numbers!

  6. Margaret,
    I love the "Thursday isn't close enough to worry about."
    I may adopt this as a motto as I have been fretting over bulletins today. Of course I am of the tradition that HAS to have a sermon title.
    But, Thursday's is done and Easter is almost done.

  7. My Episcopal parish offers Eucharist and Stations of the Cross on MTW evenings, then the special liturgies for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday)

    In the past I have not attended the MWF night events, but all the others (have choir commitments for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). I do plan to be there this evening though...I am having an interesting dialogue with Stations, so we'll see.

    I don't remember ever attending a Vigil Service until I was in grad school, but that may not mean that my home church didn't offer it...rather that we didn't go. I LOVE love love it.

  8. Passover begins tonight, which means that once again I and some members of the confirmation class will spend Tuesday night of Holy Week at the synagogue next door sharing in the community Seder. It's one of my favorite things and I love when passover coincides with Holy Week and allows us to do this.

    We have a mediterranean dinner for Maundy Thursday, which is always an exciting treat--we eat hummus and various salads and couscous and all that good stuff, family style, and it flows into worship and communion around the dinner tables. I love having communion shared around dinner tables.

  9. Oooh, Teri, how FABULOUS! One of my absolutely most meaningful Good Fridays EVER was the year that the Passover Seder fell the same night, and my Jewish Christian friend invited me to a traditional Seder in her home. Blew my mind. was my birthday. Awesome!

  10. I just love this time of year. In the Church of Scotland, there isn't really any obligation or tradition to observe anything other than Maundy Thursday and Good Friday but I love to create liturgies and worship experiences, so I'm in my element.
    We even celebrated imposition of ashes way back on Ash Wednesday which is really unusual in C of S. But a small group of folk have continued to journey with special midweek services throughout Lent and now, every night in Holy Week. Love it, love it, love it!

  11. Oh, question:
    We are doing the washing of the hands(as oppossed to feet) for Maundy Thursday.
    What do y'all normally say(if anything during this time)?
    I am the only one doing the washing and I did not know if I should say something or not.

  12. I actually thougth of passing it on to the next person and the next, but it may be hard to do with this group.
    Intinction for communion weirds them out a bit

  13. We're having a service every day. We had 6 at Eucharist tonight, and I was pleased--setting my expectations low means fewer disappointments. And we had a great crowd for Palm Sunday yesterday.

    The hardest part for me is finding time to write a homily for each service. And tying up all the loose ends...details, details.

    I miss Holy Week in NYC. Between my seminary and my field ed parish I experienced some powerful liturgy. Our seminary chapel has big, heavy brass outer doors that are closed at the end of the Good Friday service and not opened again until the Easter Vigil. It might sound silly but that was very powerful.

  14. the church I attended before training for ministry had services each night in Holy Week – here that hasn’t been the practice. This year the church is open on Monday and Tuesday evening for prayer and reflection - no liturgy offered, just space. Wednesday evening the choir is leading an evening with music and readings. Thursday I am leading a service. In the past it has been a meal and Tenebrae, but this year we are starting a bit later and having a communion service in the church. I suggested maybe foot washing, but the worship committee were horrified. maybe next year.
    then I am leading Friday and Sunday. a lay preacher is leading Sunday sunrise, but the forecast is for rain - hasn't rained Easter morning since I have been here so not sure what we do if it rains.
    so 3 services and sermons. Previous years I have let the readings speak for themselves on Thursday and Friday – this year I am thinking of looking at various responses. In Luke the disciples argue about who is greatest, and later fall asleep in the garden. Friday there are various response to Jesus so I'm focussing on the disciples [betrayal/ denial/ ran away/ at the foot of the cross] then Sunday the women ran to tell others, and Peter went home - what do we do with the news of resurrection?
    On Sunday a member of the congregation told me they find some of the images associated with Easter unhelpful – sacrificial language etc which doesn’t fit with their understanding of God. I am wondering if it is time to talk about the various understandings of cross and salvation. see where the week, and the Spirit, leads by Friday.

  15. PRL, I think it would be a great idea to talk with your folks about the different ways people experience and interpret those various understandings. I had to run into it on my own and have a meltdown, then find out there was a whole body of theological examination of it. I would have appreciated a heads up.

  16. 1-4 Grace: I haven't been to a handwashing but I find silence, or communal song, most powerful in footwashing so might work equally well.

    PRL: bless you, bless you, for listening to your people and opening the rich tradition of Christian theology on the cross in response to their healthy resistance to problematic theology. I adore the liturgies of Holy Week but as both an abuse survivor and feminist theologian find standard preaching of substitutionary atonement=God wanted the cross per se, and couldn't or wouldn't forgive people without it, both triggering and traumatizing, and bordering on spiritual abuse. I always try to emphasize that the power of the cross is a mystery, which is why I find devotions and hymns honoring it much less problematic than spelled out, bald assertions of a supposedly loving God wanting horrific suffering of an innocent. And that the salvific will of God was most expressed in becoming incarnate and sharing our sufferings, not inflicting them, and Christ dying was God's will only given the alternatives-- because it was the nonviolent, non=backing down response to the world's hatred of his great good works, teaching, etc. --and always in the context of the resurrection. Christus Victor can also be a great thing to introduce people too. And I think every pastor should read and grapple with Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker's Proverbs of Ashes. I don't agree with their complete rejection of any kind of redemptive suffering but they have powerful and valid reasons for their critique of that tradition in theology, which we need to be taking seriously.

    I will be rejoicing in singing with the choir Thursday and Sunday, and doing beloved/long dreamed of chant solos on Good Friday and Easter Vigil on Saturday. Definitely missing the participatory washing of the feet from past communities, but the clergy doing it is better than nothing....And also missing the freedom to go up barefoot, kneel, and kiss the cross in the Good Friday liturgy--as far as I can tell the veneration in this parish is five minutes of silence at your place in the pews. So I may slip into the first half of the campus chapel or local RC parish to experience that ritual which I treasure.

  17. We have daily Mass year round, so M,T & W are Mass as usual.

    On Maundy Thursday we do the Maundy Liturgy with foot washing. My predecessor did the 12 men sitting in a semi-circle "act-it-out" model. I do the "all y'all come" model. I look forward to the day when the entire parish will participate not only in being washed but in doing the washing, but I'm not convinced we're there just yet. I thought about washing hands, to ease them into it, but the whole association of hand washing rings with Pilate washing his hands of Jesus, so I'm steering clear of that.

    Watch in the Garden through the night, GF liturgy (hooray for a wonderful intern who is preaching!), Holy Saturday morning liturgy with cleaning and rehearsal for the Vigil, the Great Vigil and the Easter Sunday.

    Best of all...the office is closed on Monday and Tuesday!

    I'm struggling with getting started on my sermons.

  18. We didn't celebrate easter growing up. There was an occasional basket with a ton of chocolate in it, but Easter was a non-starter. It wasn't until I was 24-ish that I finally encountered Easter in it's wondrous pomp and drama in the Easter Vigil. I had been attending Baptist churches for a few years when I was invited to sing in the choir of an Episcopal congregation in Richmond, VA. One Vigil changed everything. I'm still Baptist...and I really miss the Vigil.

    (I'm taking a few from my church to the Vigil at a local parish this year. I'm really excited.)

  19. One thing I have always loved, but don't do at this church, is the Watch during Maundy Thursday-to-Good Friday night. Last time I ended up with a terrible allergy attack from a small room full of lilies and had a terrible time singing the services that followed!

    I do take an early morning "watch hour" at home on my own.

  20. MB, the lilies can be a little ridiculous! This year we aren't having any, because my allergic reaction to them is so severe that I can barely see/speak/breathe to preach/preside. I have complained enough that they were left off the order form this year. I feel only a little bit bad about that. ;-)

    Sophia, you'll be happy to know that substitutionary/satisfaction atonement never--NEVER--makes an appearance in my congregation. We are Christus Victor-leaning-toward-process people, subscribing to a phrase said so well by Cynthia Rigby of Austin Seminary: "the cross was not necessary, but it was inevitable." (taking after Tom Long's statement that "Jesus didn't get up every day intending to be killed--he got up every day intending to live a life full of of God, and that kind of life will get you killed.")


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