Holy Week at St. Paul’s United Church
By any measure, Holy Week is a marathon of worship. Five worship services in four days, taking you on an emotional roller coaster that leads from the solemnity of Maundy Thursday to the grief and pain of Good Friday to the jubilation of Easter morning.
Many people wonder what the point of attending all of these services is when we already know the story of Holy Week, especially when so many of them make us sad and uncomfortable.
Holy Week, including Easter, is the most important time in the Christian year and the truth is that it should make us uncomfortable. When we go straight from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the jubilation of Easter we miss the profound nature of God’s actions during this time and the opportunity to enter into the story ourselves.
The Easter story is one where God turns failure and death into a triumph of life. The journey from the upper room to the cross to the empty tomb reflect our own faith journey, showing us our failings, our betrayal, our pain and that God can bring resurrection out of death and pain. So what are the services during Holy Week and what is each one about?
This service remembers the final meal that Jesus ate with his friends, the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (we wash hands). It ends with the betrayal by Judas. The sanctuary is stripped it’s hanging and accessories and we leave in silence. This service starts at 7 pm at St. Paul’s.
This service remembers the arrest, trial and death of Jesus. The service this year includes Scripture, symbols, sounds, readings and poetry. It takes us to the moment when it seems that all is lost and that death has won. This service starts at 11 am at St. Timothy’s Presbyterian.
This is a newer service for St. Paul’s and takes place on Saturday night. In this service we keep vigil at the tomb, waiting for the resurrection. People are invited to come up to a half hour before the service starts to keep vigil in silence in the darkened sanctuary. The service starts in darks, candles are then lit and the first part of the service is done by candle light. As we read the Easter Gospel the lights come on and we proclaim the resurrection. This takes place on Saturday at St. Paul’s. The doors are open from 8:30 pm and the service starts at 9 pm.
This service takes place at the lake at sunrise on Easter morning. It happens at this time to remember the women who went to Jesus tomb at sunrise to anoint his body and found the tomb empty. Led by Karen Strong it takes place at 6:15 am at McClarnan Road and Lake Driveway East.
A service of celebration, this is the final service of Holy Week. The community gathers to proclaim and celebrate the resurrection with joy. It takes place at St. Paul’s at 10:30 am on Easter morning.