April 14, 2014

Holy Week Remixed

For my entire life I have waved palm branches on Palm Sunday, washed other people’s feet on Maundy Thursday, attended services at noon on Good Friday, and spent Saturday night at the Easter Vigil. These liturgies are familiar to me and an important part of my religious observation.

Now, however, I attend St. Lydia’s, a small an experimental community, where we do things slightly differently. A typical Holy Week service might involve stringed instruments or drums, a meal, no prayer books or bulletins, and occasionally liturgical dancing. It’s both familiar and foreign, giving Holy Week a new shape and occasionally presenting new insights. It’s Holy Week remixed. 

In a sense, during Holy Week, we're simply doing what we do every Sunday: taking the familiar stories, the truth we have, and putting it together in new ways, like a poet arranging old words in new ways or a church choir singing a familiar lyric to a new melody.

Typically, I don’t like writing and art that feel overly familiar. I write a lot of reflections for various Episcopal organizations, and although I’m often writing about the Episcopal Church, Christian life, the Bible, things that most of my readers are familiar with, I try not to write anything that feels like I’ve read it before. Yet in liturgy I value that familiarity, those sacred stories transformed into the liturgies I know so well. They never feel stale.

I think we should ask ourselves often: what makes our liturgy meaningful and fresh? 

In part, this is because of the story we are telling—the story of God and sacrifice, forgiveness and love. In part it’s that each year we have changed, and we are participating each year as slightly different people. In part it’s God working in and through them.

I am grateful for my church and the way we are taking the stories and liturgies I know and love so well and making them new and surprising, and I am grateful for the Episcopal tradition, which is old and rich with meaning. I believe that the Anglican Communion can encompass both.