In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Is Holy Week?

There is a very obvious answer to this question, but I'm not going to go there. If you don't know what Holy Week refers to, Google it yourself.

In all my conversations with clergy, they always talk about what Lent is going to be like. They may enjoy Lent, but it always seems like Lent really means a lot of work for the pastor. Of course, as we get closer to Holy Week, this frenzy of activity culminates in a series of worship services, designed to test the mortality of worship leadership. At least, that's the perspective I get from my clergy friends.

One of my clergy friends flipped out when he found out that someone was having a schedule conflict with the evening Maundy Thursday Worship. Now, he was probably flipping out for a variety of reasons: leaving the dinner early (it's a Seder meal, so it is going to be elaborate), not being able to help clean up, and not attending worship. However, I was getting from his tone that there should be nothing scheduled...because it's Maundy Thursday.

Back in the day, the Church had authority over the government and could organize life according to its liturgical calendar, ripe with saint days and feast days. Martin Luther began to change things with his challenge to the church. Interestingly, this change was so gradual that we have only begun to notice it in the last century. However, the change is quite apparent today. There is a world out there that does now know or care what special day the Church assigns. Even Christmas and Easter (the big two) don't carry a lot of weight in impacting schedules.

So, what is a lay person to do? Holy Week is supposed to be the culmination of the church year. Ideally, we would be able to take that week off, or better yet, the season of Lent off to devote ourselves to prayer and study. At least, we are supposed to attend and appreciate the worship services planned out by our clergy. My clergy friend is torn between wanting the opportunity offered, and wanting the opportunity to present itself on less of a high holy day.

However, in this complaint I hear the superiority of the clergy seeping through. I think that all the stress and effort being put into Lent and Holy Week blinds the clergy to the fact that us lay people still work and live throughout Holy Week...just like any other day. It's Holy Week, yet we still do mundane work.

This has been a very strange Lenten season for me. My church attendance has been nearly nonexistent, for a variety of reasons that I will not go into. My devotional life was going well for a while until it also got derailed. The funny thing is that I feel like I lived Lent quite fully. Again, life circumstances made Lent more real to me than if I had tried a particular spiritual discipline. I won’t go into a lot of life details, but it made Lent come alive.

Maybe that's the way it should be. I like interpreting our lives by the liturgical season. Nothing has really changed, except my perspective. I think that living in the promise of the resurrection is the same way. Our lives do not dramatically change, but we view our lives in a different way.

This doesn’t really come to a resolution. Sorry.


Blogger LoieJ said...

Part of life is having to make choices and decide on priorities. These days there are so many choices at all times. And these days some people think they can have everything. But chosing is part of growing up.

Our Lenten services have traditionally been short, informal, yet contemplative. However one past pastor always tried to wring them out to an hour long, no matter what. "Lets have another hymn." This was the highlite of his day. He was forgetting that most of the people had worked all day or gone to school all day. The choir director had taught school all day, had already directed one choir practice and still had one more to direct.

Pastors need to be in tune with the needs and moods of the congregation, yet sometimes lead in new directions.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Chad K said...

Ross, thanks for the perspective. It is informative. I have been attuned to what you are saying lately as I have a few people make various comments to me lately that the church does not consume thier whole life. Mostly letting me know they think services should be shorter, etc...but nonetheless, do know that many pastors think long and hard about what they are doing...I suppose frustration over lack of response from the hard work you put in can lead to some hurt feelings. Human nature, you know.

Your lent journey sounds like it has been great. A liturgical ("work of the people") is not limited to the confines of the church. In fact often the sacred is experienced right in the midst of the secular & profane. You should maybe encourage your friend to visit more folks in their work places. In fact this is a great reminder to me to always have my ear pressed to the ground. Paz

9:25 AM  
Blogger Chris Duckworth said...

Yes, I hear your point. I work for a Lutheran organization, and I was at work today. My dad has his own business and when one of his employees asks if the office is closed on a certain holiday (President's Day, Good Friday, etc.), my dad's answer is, "if you have to ask, we're open." Not very deferential to the Christian calendar.

That being said, to what extent can and should the church ask for a certain level of commitment from its members - particularly it's core, commited membership? Is it too much to ask that for one Thursday, one Friday during the year that the baseball season tickets, soccer practice or orchestra subscription take a back seat? Is it too much to ask that for one or two weekdays out of the year an active church member leave work in time to participate in some of the highest and holiest services in the life of the church?

But again, back to the clergy. I think it is also their responsibility to facilitate and lead a worship experience that is authentic, that connects the members to the church's tradition and to the Gospel, that is rich rather than rote, meaningful rather than mundane.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Chris Duckworth said...

PS. I left Holy Thursday services early, and didn't even attempt to attend Good Friday services. This kills me. These are among the most dramatic, intimate, and faith-feeding services of the year for me. Why aren't I at church?

I love her to death, but my 2 year old daughter nearly melted down last evening during the sermon. We left during the hymn. Since her bed time is between 8PM and 9PM, a 7:30 service is less than ideal for her (as was the 1PM community Good Friday service - right at nap time!). In my ideal world (and not just for me, but for all the parents out there) there would be services at child-friendly times. My brother's church, for example, had a 10AM Christmas Eve service - kid friendly, and family friendly for people traveling to be with family later in the day. Perhaps our churches should do more of that kind of thing . . .

7:16 PM  

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