April 3, 2020
As I was preparing for worship via Zoom last Sunday, I was still learning what we can do in that format, and what doesn’t work too well. In my Disciples of Christ tradition, we celebrate communion each week. It is a challenge to do that when we are not with one another to share the bread and the cup. In fact, in our first worship gathering with Zoom we just didn’t have communion. But last Sunday, at the suggestion of one of my leaders, we had everyone select items at home to represent the bread and cup, recognizing that remembering Jesus is what is important, not a piece of matzoh and a cup of juice. So, we shared communion together from our multitude of locations. And it worked.
But as we now look at celebrating Palm Sunday, and Easter, while being apart from one another, it is again a challenge to envision worship, especially on these two Sundays that tend to be experienced through a variety of items that tell the story, including the palms on the Sunday of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and the lilies and colors and decorations that usually accompany the celebration of the Resurrection.
Of course, for those churches who gather a few worship leaders together, and stream their worship gathering, it is possible for everything to look much like it usually does on those Sundays, just absent the congregation. But for churches who don’t yet stream services, especially for smaller congregations with less resources, there needs to be additional thought and creativity brought to the situation.
Looking toward Palm Sunday, one option is to invite people to bring some kind of green plant into the space they use to join the Zoom gathering. It doesn’t have to be a palm tree, although for those who have palms in their yards, the obvious choice is to bring a small frond or two to the worship time. But the sense of celebration doesn’t need to be limited to plants and palm fronds. Anything people have at hand that symbolizes a way in which they celebrate an important occasion – from balloons to banners to the clothes they wear – can add to the sense of celebration of Palm Sunday.
Then, during Holy Week, our church family usually has a Maundy Thursday service, with readings and candles and a sense of darkness that is broken into only by the small light of Christ that cannot be extinguished. This would seem to translate more easily into meeting via Zoom. Each person can be invited to light their own candle, and to extinguish it at a certain point, if that is how the service is structured. To bring something purple into each person’s space, to recognize the liturgical color, can also provide a setting for folks. The sharing of readings is easy with Zoom. And the celebration of communion can happen as described above.
Then comes Easter. Some people may go out and buy lilies, although I wouldn’t encourage a specific trip out for that right now. But bringing items of brilliant colors into their space, especially colors related to the light of Resurrection, is something that everyone can easily do. I am certain you can imagine other poignant ways to help set the stage for the celebration of this great day. But when it comes down to it, what is most important is proclaiming the story itself, in all of its mystery, wonder and joy.
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