Worship for Palm Sunday and Easter Day

This article is from Issue 30 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.

Marcus Benjamin 
At Wesley Geelong a traditional service and Worship in the Round occur at the same time. This opportunity for diversity in worship can be stimulating. A wide range of worship patterns available to us leads to vitality and the possibility of experimentation. In planning ahead, it was decided that Palm Sunday would be a splendid opportunity for welding together the two different patterns of worship in the congregation. Palm Sunday and Easter are events full of movement, drama, and involvement.PALM SUNDAY
So the congregation started in the traditional church. Four children carrying palm branches preceded the minister and the choir as the service commenced with the processional hymn All Glory, Praise and Honour. Prayers for Palm Sunday were followed by the Lords Prayer. After a baptism the choir sang The Merchants Carol telling the Palm Sunday story in music. Our offering was given while we sang the childrens hymn Children of Jerusalem.The triumphant entry into Jerusalem as described in Luke 28:44 was an ideal reading for dramatic presentation. All the members of one of our study groups read the reading with individual voices representing the spoken parts. The word was then proclaimed and the congregation moved out in procession during the hymn Ride, on, ride on in majesty.

Our church is in a city block and so people were able to march behind the palm branches around a block of our city centre to proclaim our witness to the king who rides a donkey. While the procession was on, older people moved from the church to the church hall where Worship in the Round is held and participated in community hymn singing.

The hall had been prepared for The Last Supper. Tables covered with white cloths had been set with plates and chalices. On the stage twelve seats were grouped around a central seat.

When the procession arrived back at the hall there was some more hymr singing while the minister and twelve elders gathered at the table on the stage. The choir sang the hymn Were you there when they crucified my Lord and we began a service of Holy Communion. We used chunks of bread and common cups, passing the elements from person to person. One of the joys was the involvement and interest of the children who always participate in the Communion in Worship in the Round.

At the end of the Communion we sang the last verses of the hymn Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die. In this service we had prepared ourselves for the journey, in the week ahead to an empty tomb via a cross.

The congregation worshipped in two sites on Easter day. There was a traditional service in the church building, and there was an open air service and barbecue celebration in the backyard of the holiday home of one of our members at Angelsea. This open air service was again a service of involvement and participation. The rain had passed by the time we were together. There were Uniting Church folk from Ballarat and Malvern, Church of Christ people from Belmont and Doncaster. Anglicans and a Catholic friend in addition to a number of families from Geelong.

The service was one of celebration with a triumphant call to worship and then we sang the hymn Christ the Lord is risen again accompanied by an organ recorded on a cassette tape. Prayers of thanksgiving and the Lords prayer were followed by a congregation singing with a tape of the Mission Sisters God gives his people strength. Then there was a greeting time because there were new people to be welcomed.

In a caring and sharing time the congregation remembered their parishes, absent and sick friends and prayed for others. Then we sang The Lord of the Dance with its triumphant fifth verse. They cut me down and I leapt up high.

The Core Time drew on the experiences of some of our members at the Mill Theatre Community Workshop of the Deakin University. With three leaders willing to try and express the Easter story in drama and movement, we broke up into three groups. There were approximately twenty people in each group, adults and children. Group one enacted the crucifixion as recorded in Luke 23:36-48. Group two enacted the time between, as recorded in Matthew 28:57-66. Group three enacted the resurrection, John 20:1-16. In these groups we attempted to portray in movement the significant highlights of the gospel story concluding each segment with a freeze in which the theme was caught up in one symbolic human sculpture. It was fun to enact the story in various corners of the yard under the native trees.

The story was then retold, each group presenting their work to the remainder of the congregation. It was significant that our minister only had to remind us that we had experienced Easter in our activity and in the fact that we were meeting together with visitors from other churches and denominations. Our response to the Easter message was to join in the victory dance from the Search Cassette. We and listened and sang to it to two verses and then danced to another three. The grave is empty wont you come and see.

Stimulated, celebrating, we concluded our service by singing the hymn Thine be the glory, risen, conquering son, again to an organ accompaniment on the cassette, and after the dismissal hymn we all joined hands and sang Amen together.

Such was the atmosphere of the service that no one wanted to leave and hence we were able to maintain the atmosphere of celebration and fellowship over a barbecue lunch. We are finding that experiments in worship lead to a wider involvement and a new level of stimulus for many.

2 thoughts on “Worship for Palm Sunday and Easter Day”

  1. The story of the Palm Sunday is superb and quite interesting. Can’t there be a drama on the “Old Rugged Cross” for the children alone? I believe many of them will always remember how Jesus suffered on the Cross for them as the hymn is being sung especially on Good Friday service.

    1. Thank you for your comments Nwakaego. A drama such as you suggest isn’t something that had occurred to me and it didn’t feature in the original author’s worship plans, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it in your congregation if that’s what you wanted.

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