In these times when congregations are prevented from gathering in person, worship leaders have been creatively responding to this challenging time. This will also be true as we move into the central days of the church year, the great Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter that leads us into Easter Day.
One resource that might be helpful in your preparing and planning is the webcast, “Triduum under Quarantine: Planning Holy Week Services that Honor Social Distancing,” led by Rev. James Farwell, Ph.D. and Lisa Kimball, Ph.D. Sourced from one of our full-communion partners, a seminary of the Episcopal church, its guidance is also useful for Lutheran leaders and others. You can view Part 1, a shorter introduction, and Part 2, a more in-depth discussion.
An abundance of guidance is provided but two key points are highlighted throughout: Build on what you already doing well in your context and remember the essentials. If you have been thriving with a live streaming or digital ministry, continue doing that well. If you are providing material by email or mail, continue that. Be careful to not attempt too much. What will bring consolation is practicing rituals that are familiar; the present situation is new enough. And remember you are not alone.
Review the liturgies of the Three Days in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, reminding yourself what is most essential and then consider how these essentials could be experienced domestically. Keep in mind scalability and capacity. Is this something that would be well received in a home situation, by various ages, and with differing technological abilities? Are you preparing in ways that honor your limited capacity? Kimball reminds us not to try to be God ourselves and not to over-function.
From there, consider how these essentials might be adapted to a home setting.
- Can you create a space in your home that functions as a worship space for all three days? A simple table could be adorned with a cloth. Could it change visually, perhaps with a central cross alone on Good Friday, candles added for the Vigil, and flowers on Easter Day?
- On Maundy Thursday, could you consider more intentionally what the call to servanthood means in this time of COVID-19? How might a simple handwashing, itself a sign of care for others, or the traditional footwashing be done at home?
- On Good Friday, central actions include the world-encompassing bidding prayer and our reverencing of the cross as the sign of the crucified Savior. If you have children, include hands-on prayer activities using a globe, newspapers, or magazines. Or, as Elaine Ramshaw suggested to her congregation in Connecticut, individuals might be invited to share a picture and a few words about a cross that is meaningful to them. These pictures could be assembled and shared digitally with the congregation.
- For the Easter Vigil, how might you share the biblical stories in your home? Consider children’s story bibles such as the Spark Story Bible. If you have an online subscription to Sundays and Seasons, the Library (Sundays and Seasons Resources/Seasonal Rites for the Three Days) offers versions of the stories designed for multiple readers. As the vigil comes to an end, shout, sing, or display your “Hallelujahs!” Perhaps you adorn your home or driveway or sing out for the neighbors to hear.
- On Easter morning, ring bells indoors (and outdoors, but not too early!) to further welcome the Day of Resurrection.
The ELCA Worship Blog has provided Worship in the Home resources for the Three Days. This resource will include suggestions for singing as well as suggested choral recordings from Augsburg Fortress as a way to support your devotion. In addition, children and youth ministry at the ELCA has provided this home resource especially for families with young children.
Jesus’ resurrection comes in the midst of our fears; Jesus’ peace enters locked rooms. Bathed in baptismal waters, we journey to the cross and empty tomb, trusting the power of the resurrection that leads to life.