An Unaccustomed Silence

Holy Week has begun and for the first time in many years, I feel completely unprepared.

Usually, by the time Palm/Passion Sunday (we observe both at Old South) rolls around, I have at least a good idea (in my head, if nowhere else) of what the week will look like. By the week before Easter, I almost always have an outline of an Easter sermon. Sometimes, I manage to have most of that sermon written down in phrases and paragraphs. I have a good idea of what I want Easter worship to feel like, what I feel is important to convey for my flock, extended as they typically are for Easter morning.

This year, I begin the week with hardly a notion at all of some even of the basics of the week ahead. The special service times have been posted, as have the “sign ups” (a now ever-present aspect of how we gather ourselves at Old South, with opportunities for anyone to sign up for just about anything—readings, prayers, serving communion, etc.). But, I don’t have a clue what the readings will be, or the shape of the communion service for Maundy Thursday, or the structure of the prayer service for Good Friday. And, I don’t have even a phrase or a concept for the start of the sermon on Easter.

The little bits that I gather over Lent (and before), usually come to me at odd moments—when I’m in my car, when I’m working out at the gym, when I’m at the grocery store, when I’m making dinner or baking, etc. It’s not uncommon for me, especially during Lent, to find myself in some weird place grasping for a piece of scrap paper, or now more commonly the note-taking app on my smart phone, to scribble down a random, holy week related thought. They are like little stray gifts.

By the time Holy Week arrives, I usually have at least a handful of pieces of scrap paper. Sometimes, those scrap paper ideas have already found their way into some development in a document on my computer. I rarely face Holy Week with the dread that I need to come up with everything, and there’s not much time.

This year is one of those years when the beginning of Holy Week is looking rather stressful and challenging, when the note-taking app is empty and there’s nothing in the “stray gift” basket. If it’s an especially silent season, I know there are previous years (lots of them, at this point in my ministry) that offer at least something of a safety net. Yet, I’m hoping that I won’t need to rely on the safety net too much, and that a new insight or two will make itself known, and soon.

I begin this most holy of weeks trying hard not to panic. Instead, I’m attempting to allow the silence to be what it is, hoping that it’s in the silence I need to be for the moment. And, trusting that something will come that will guide this year’s holy week in a new way, and will open up the wonder and awe of these holy observances—for me and the congregation.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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1 Response to An Unaccustomed Silence

  1. Christine Bartlett says:

    It’s actually comforting to me to know that you, too, experience those moments of not knowing. I trust you will find your way. Thanks for sharing your uncertainty!

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