One Thing for Holy Week

Apr 11, 2019 9:00:39 AM / by John Sall

How do those who are responsible as congregational worship planners and leaders attend to their own spiritual health through Holy Week? The physical, emotional, and spiritual demands of even the schedule of worship in the most concentrated and powerful gatherings can stretch us to and beyond our limits, not to mention the additional rehearsals, extra practice, additional printed worship material, coordination with professional and volunteer musicians, florists, colleagues, and, and, and…

I know. I’m preaching to the choir (directors).

I have heard many times from colleagues and friends what a welcome mountain this is to climb: that the deep joy of a personal calling and professional opportunity to help proclaim these central aspects of our Christian story, and to allow music in particular to reflect a glimmer of the inherent mystery, is worth all the ways we give our ourselves away to and for our congregations in this week. But if we are to remain spiritually vibrant as a source of our vocation and energy to serve in these ways, we must take care to do more than “get through” these holy days.

I am delighted to have learned to listen for the ways colleagues identify their vigorously defended “one thing” that makes their Advent and Christmas season nourishing: their Alma Mater Christmas concert, an annual caroling party with friends, Lessons and Carols from King’s College, reading The Story aloud in King James Version, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and surely many others. These, of course, are all a kind of accompaniment to, or holy personal ritual alongside, the central worship services in our congregations. But they are critical for nurturing our own joy and health. How much more rarely do I hear of such personal rituals in Holy Week. Take a few moments to draw away from the crowds (and the crowded schedule!) and draw near to God. Over the years, I have tried adding to my week some new personal rituals that didn’t really stick, and I have discovered some treasures I can’t imagine the week without.

A few suggestions of varying style and length for starters, with thanks to my spouse for help in curating a list that could occur anywhere in the weeks ahead:

  • Schedule a time to listen to one of the Bach passion settings (live or recorded)
  • Attend a themed or artistically nourishing concert
  • Breathe in the perfume and beauty of a botanical garden
  • Read some classic and contemporary poetry on Holy Week and Easter themes
  • Photograph or create something, even small (paint, paper art, etc.)
  • Dye Easter eggs or bake something to share

I pray you embrace or find your “one thing” this Holy Week. You are beloved. You are worth taking the time to find it and enjoy it!

Topics: self-care, Easter

John Sall

Written by John Sall

John Sall, a cradle Lutheran and long-time guest participant with ELCA worship staff for Church Wide Assemblies, serves as Director of Music Ministries at Abington Presbyterian Church. He also serves as an at-large member on the Presbyterian Association of Musicians Executive Board.

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