Read Pastor Austin’s Mid-Week Update for Wednesday, April 1
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: A different kind of journey
Friends, we are about to enter Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday this Sunday. This, obviously, is going to be a different experience of Holy Week than we’ve ever had before. For some of us, this will be an experience of grief: missing seeing each other, being with each other in the somber contemplation of Good Friday and the joyful celebration of Easter.
For some of us, this will be a journey that provides new meaning to both our faith and our worship services, as we hear and experience this familiar story in very different ways, shaped by the crisis our world is undergoing right now and buoyed by the current of hope that is at the very heart of our Easter faith: that God “has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
For most of us, I suspect there will be elements of both, in varying ways and proportions. And that is not only understandable, but healthy. I commend to you an excellent article published last week in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” which names the dynamics of grief that we are all going through, and also brings in the question of finding meaning in the midst of it without denying the reality of grief.
And so, while there is obviously a sense of loss in how we will experience Holy Week this year, I can also think of perhaps no better season in the Christian calendar for us to be going through this pandemic. Because Holy Week simultaneously contains the greatest moments of grief and loss in our faith, and also the most profound expressions and experiences of meaning and hope. So as we prepare to enter this most sacred time of the Christian year, I urge you to walk fully through its richness and beauty and power, especially if you find yourself having more free time than usual.
We will celebrate Palm Sunday this Sunday at both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. via Facebook Live. On Thursday night at 6 p.m., we will have an “Interactive Maundy Thursday Service,” which will combine prayers, Scripture, and music, with interactive small group Scripture discussions in virtual “rooms” on Zoom, and a similar experience of sharing Communion in small groups that will be closer, in many ways, to the Last Supper in the upper room than our typical services have been. I think it will be very meaningful, and urge you to be a part of it. (Details will be in next week’s Mid-Week Update email.)
Next Friday, we will have our Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 8 p.m. via Facebook Live; if possible, I encourage you to prepare for that service by joining it from a room that has a light switch with a dimmer, or multiple lamps that you can lower and turn off, or even candles that you can set out and extinguish as the service progresses into greater darkness. We will have more to say about both of those services early next week. And, of course, we will celebrate Easter at both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 12.
Now, as I say all that, I also need to say that some of these plans may change in real time, or some aspects of the services may change, as the dynamics of the pandemic continue to develop. That may even happen as early as Palm Sunday. So I encourage you to monitor the church’s Facebook page and electronic communications if possible, because those are the quickest ways we can keep you informed. But regardless of any such changes, we will continue to worship together online; we will walk through Holy Week together; and we will gather on Easter morning to celebrate the empty tomb together. I am grateful for this congregation and for our commitment to each other in this moment, and I look forward to experiencing Holy Week with you.
Grace and Peace,