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How Did Your Previous Christian Tradition Observe Holy Week? CHNetwork Community Question

April 3, 2017 2 Comments

With Palm Sunday approaching, we’re asking our members and readers to share their experiences of Holy Week in their previous denominations.  Did you have any extra services at church during the week?  Were there special devotions you took part in?  What aspects of Scripture did you focus on?

Here’s what some of our members and readers had to say:

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“As a Wesleyan preacher’s daughter, I do not have any memories from Holy Week. None. I remember my grandmother sewing buttons on my blue skirt. My sister and I had matching outfits, blue skirts and white Mediterranean-style white blouses. New shoes. White gloves. That was the preparation for Easter, when we would wake up before sunrise and gather with the congregation for a sunrise breakfast. When my father became a Presbyterian pastor, we had one Holy Week event. Maundy Thursday. I knew it was the night of the Last Supper. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue what ‘Maundy’ meant.

As a Catholic, my eyes are fully set on Holy Week.  My family waits with great anticipation for Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. We will go. Take up an entire row. Some of the grandsons will fall asleep before it is over. We will remember when they were baptized, the only cradle Catholics in the family. We will remember when we entered the Church, the first time my husband and I received the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This Holy Night. And we will feel as though we have walked with Jesus Christ and stood at His side through every bit of the journey. I travel every year to Jerusalem. As a Catholic, I have learned to enter fully the Way of the Cross. All of it is found in this one week. Holy Week. Thanks be to God.

Denise Bossert, author, Gifts of the Visitation

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“I grew up in the Liberal Quaker tradition which is very plain and simple and has no liturgy or sacraments as such (all aspects of life are considered sacramental).  Nothing whatsoever marked out Easter as special.  Meeting for worship is much like silent adoration, with the addition of any “Spirit lead” ministry which spontaneously occurs (or not) during the Meeting for Worship.  There is no hierarchy as such and anyone attending meeting can minister if they feel moved to do so.”

Nancy T., CHNetwork Community Forum

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“The non-denominational churches I belonged to as a child did not celebrate Holy Week or the Triduum. We just celebrated Easter Sunrise service. On occasion we would hold Easter Sunday services at the amphitheater at a local park.”

Fr. Douglas Ondeck, via Facebook

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“My Anglican Church was basically much like the Catholic Church.  We did Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I cannot remember if there was a Holy Saturday service or not, and there were certainly not Vigil services either, but other than that, it was very similar to the Catholic Church.

My Plymouth Brethren church was terribly anti-liturgical and barely even acknowledged Christmas or Easter. Nothing was ever decorated, although we might have sung an “Easter hymn” on Easter Sunday. Other than that, you wouldn’t know that it was different from any other Sunday. Certainly there were no Holy Week services at all, and not even a Good Friday service!

My Presbyterian church did a lovely Good Friday service, albeit a non-traditional one, but the meaning and solemnity were there. It also of course did a lovely Easter morning sunrise service as well as the usual 10 am Sunday service, and both were quite lovely!”

Jennie Fraser, CHNetwork Community Forum Moderator

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“When I was young all holy week included was Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday. In my 20’s after really getting into Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I began to focus on how to celebrate the time between the Maundy Thursday service and Easter morning. For a few years, I went to a daily lunch time service at my Non-denominational church every weekday of Holy Week (though we didn’t call it that). A couple years I fasted from Friday morning to Sunday morning. The year I lived in Peru I went off to camp on a mountain by myself from Friday morning to Sunday morning to spend the time in prayer and reflection on the passion passages in scripture. When I became Catholic I was so happy that there was so much more for me to participate in and I didn’t have to figure it all out myself.”

Seth Paine, Developer of Web and New Media, The Coming Home Network

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“My very short answer: we didn’t. We did celebrate on Easter Sunday but we didn’t have a season before or after to reflect or prepare. This is one of many things I love about the Catholic Church. The liturgical seasons are for our benefit rather than for God’s. We need to be encouraged by The Body of Christ to deeper conversion. The seasons of Lent and Advent help us to do that in beautiful and tangible ways.”

Rachelle Parker, CHNetwork Member (read her conversion story here)

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What about you?  Did your previous Christian tradition have special observances leading up to Easter?  If so, please share in the comments below!

  • Ken Hensley

    Interesting question. As a Baptist, we celebrated Palm Sunday and then “Resurrection Sunday” (most avoid the word Easter because of its pagan roots and association with Catholicism) and make a pretty big deal out of that: flowers, more elaborate music, more volunteers to welcome visitors, etc. I would preach on the Resurrection or something related to it. We’d sing the standards: “Christ our Lord is risen today, Alleluia!” But there was no Holy Week at all. No Maundy Thursday (never even heard of it), no Good Friday. Ziltch.

    As I was being drawn toward the Catholic faith I started a Good Friday service and everyone seemed to love it. The sanctuary was candle lit. We had readers read sections of the entire Passion narrative with songs interspersed. It was seen as something really “new.”

    Ah, to be Catholic and have everything!

  • Lorelei Savaryn

    Coming from various Protestant denominations, I remember Easter morning services, and the occasional emphasis on Palm Sunday. Last year, on our final year before entering the Catholic Church, our little ones got palm branches to wave around for Palm Sunday at the Baptist church we were attending, and Easter morning was one big celebration with a lot of inspiring music. When we went to a Lutheran Church, I remember a very beautiful Good Friday Service, mostly in dark, lit with candles. Nothing I had been to before was as extensive as how the Catholic Church participates in Holy Week, but there are many good memories there of celebrating Easter with my Christian friends.

The Coming Home Network International