Celebrating Lent and Easter

This article is from Issue 22 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.

Celebrating Lent and Easter in the Local Church

‘Its too bad… that so many families go away for Easter. Of all the times in the year, Easter is when we most need to be together as a worshipping community because this is when we celebrate the very heart of the gospel.’
‘We ought to… put this to the whole congregation ask people not to treat Easter as a holiday when they go away but as the holiest of seasons when we stay and celebrate together.’
‘Its not enough… to say “Stay home and celebrate with us”. We must plan to make…’

It was out of a conversation something like this that we invited some of our friends to brainstorm ideas for celebrating Lent and Easter. The list that follows comes from a congregation in Western Australia and was sent by Jenny Woodroffe. The order has been changed, but the ideas have been left in their brief ‘brainstormed’ form.

* Give more attention to Ash Wednesday.

* Memo to the Joint Board: there needs to be more time spent in the curriculum on events leading up to Easter. Palm Sunday is a nuisance and needs to be put two back Sundays!

* Celebrate the Passover with the Jews and Easter at the same time as the Greeks.

* On Good Friday have a series of tableaux and readings related to the Stations of the Cross.

* Someone recalled driving home after a Good Friday service and finding themselves in the fog, which left them with an overwhelming sense of isolation.

* Good Friday symbolises the separation of man from God the aloneness. How can we symbolise the aloneness? For the service have people sitting in physical isolation within the church building. As we dont want to leave people feeling destroyed, bring them physically together again before the completion of the service.

* Write your name on a piece of paper and hammer this into a cross within the church – to symbolise that you are being crucified and also doing the crucifying. Also need to hammer the name of the church on the cross as the church also crucifies people.

* For children: to write down something naughty theyve done and pin it on the cross – and be told that Jesus forgives them. (Some of us wondered if this might not be too traumatic for little ones to be told Jesus died for their sins that they might be forgiven.)

* When we look at the cross. each person to recall the personal cross that is for them so humiliating and degrading.

* Someone suggested that Easter would be a good time for all the old committees to die so that new ones could be brought to life! How can families celebrate Easter? We need to adhere strictly to the symbols of Easter and know why we use them.

Several families shared their own ways of celebrating –
* Our family never has hot cross buns until Good Friday breakfast. Before our meal we always have a reading from the gospels in the Good News translation.
* Our family always has fish for lunch on Good Friday as a symbol of fasting. For a couple of years we also had as a centre-piece for the table a purple cloak, a crown of thorns and a dice. A discussion of these symbols was part of the grace preceding the meal.
* One person invited families and friends back to her house after the morning service for hot cross buns and coffee.
* Our family was forced to think deeply about how to celebrate Easter as a family when we found ourselves very much alone in England several Easters ago. The church we were attending was dreary and bleak. How could we make the children (then aged 6, 5 and 2) aware of the significance of this great festival? Obviously there needed to be as much excitement and preparation in the home as at Christmas. Because of the weather, we needed to plan indoor activities.

The children loved to help with cooking. For them I made an Easter nest cake (chocolate ring cake with nest made from shredded wheat covered in chocolate with small Easter eggs on top). That Easter was also the first time I made a simnel cake. The children loved painting, and Andrew and Bridget painted what Easter meant for them. We were amazed at the non-verbal understanding they expressed.

Candles, flowers and Easter eggs were all on the meal table, and friends were invited to share in this festival as we do at Christmas.

Over the years the children have made different symbols to put on the Sunday dinner table to express Easter. When she was 8, Bridget made a clay tomb with a cross on top and this was used each Easter for a number of years until it was broken. Andrew, who was then 9 and mad keen on reptiles, made a clay crocodile coming out of an eggshell to represent new life. Another year he placed a dead twig and a fresh leaf on the table.

Three years ago the children found they could blow eggs and so the afternoon before Easter Sunday was spent blowing them. Scrambled eggs for tea that night! The eggs were then decorated and put on a twig in a flower pot and became part of the room decoration for Easter Sunday. Now we add additional eggs to the tree each year.

Members of a congregation in South Australia also shared some ideas –
* Easter day is easy enough to celebrate with children, but its very hard to find significant ways of involving children on Good Friday.
* We ought to avoid the over-use of words and use music, silence and visual images.
* If we want to encourage families to stay at home for Easter, we should offer a comprehensive program for the whole weekend so that there are activities for people to join ~n each day if they want to. For example. on Friday there could be prayer vigils, music, maybe a reading of one of the plays from Dorothy Sayers Man Born to be King~ Saturday could offer a workshop in preparation for the Sunday celebration and perhaps a midnight service of the resurrection; on Sunday there could be a dawn service (though maybe not if weve already had a midnight one!) with breakfast to follow and a really colourful and joyful celebration later in the day; Monday could be the time for a picnic together (choosing our location carefully so that we dont get caught in a traffic jam with all the returfling holiday-makers).
* An Easter egg is a good symbol for Easter Sunday. We could have a large chocolate egg to be broken during the service and shared with the children.
* It was a good symbol we had last year when each child was given a bulb to take home and plant especially because the people who provided the bulbs didnt know what kind they were, so there was an element of surprise!
* I think it would be great if some time during the Easter weekend we could have the same kind of spontaneous, sharing service we do on Christmas day, with nothing pre-planned and everyone able to contribute in whatever way is right for them by choosing a song or reading from the Bible or telling a story or just talking about what Easter means for them.

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