Over the life of my pastoral career, there seems to have been an increasing push to celebrate Passion Sunday the week before Easter. In the lower church Protestant circles when I started out almost 30 years ago, most of us had Palm Sunday. And back in the day, I think most congregations had at least one Holy Week service, either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. But Clark, here early for a meeting, and I. remembering back, think that in the lower church mainlines, there might have been congregations that had no Holy Week special services.
Hence the growing popularity of Passion Sunday over the years. The logic goes, ‘if most of our worshipers don’t come to Holy Week services, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, or if you don’t offer any of those services — then liturgically, our people go from Palm Sunday to Easter morning, from waving Palms of welcome to the wonder of the empty tomb… without the betrayals and denials, without the crucifixion’ I agree that it’s sort of a dangerous abridging of the story! In Christian theology, you can’t get to resurrection without going through death and sacrifice. More and more congregations, then, to try and give their people the whole story, the week before Easter, try and squeeze in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and all of his passion into the one one-hour service.
I did a very informal study to see how many still do Palm Sunday, and how many do Passion Sunday. I looked at the suggestions of colleagues who share worship ideas, suggestions, liturgies online. It seems to me about half of them will be observing Passion Sunday this week; some of them advocating such a practice quite vocally.
I’m not an old-time traditionalist very often, but on this one I am. We will celebrate Palm Sunday at Old First on April 9. And we will have Maundy Thursday service at 7 pm on April 13. And Good Friday services twice on Friday — from noon to 3 pm (the traditional time of the vigil while the Gospels indicate he was on the cross) and again at 7 pm when our folks will offer mediations on the 7 Last Words. You can follow the whole story, but you need to come to church extra times on Holy Week.
Hope to see you,