More Than a Ritual or Tradition
April 6, 2022
By Rev. Laura Byrch
I am regularly inspired by the creative liturgical imagination that sees connections between some of the rituals and liturgies of our tradition and what’s happening in the world around us.
As we prepare for Holy Week, I offer a few of these that help us remember and reconnect with the power the stories of our tradition have to speak to our world today in creative ways, and that can connect us more deeply with how we’re called to serve and join in God’s mission.
Good Friday: Stations of the Cross Revisited
City-wide Stations of the Cross
Across the country, there are groups that host city-wide Stations of the Cross, paralleling the story of Jesus being betrayed, condemned and crucified with stories of betrayal and crucifixion in our own day. One in Nashville, Tennessee sets up stations on the streets, in parks and plazas, and near the state capital, naming the connections between the events we remember during Holy Week and the events happening still today that betray people’s humanity and bring death through mass incarceration, police brutality, and systems that keep people trapped in cycles of poverty. Check out the link above to see descriptions of their liturgy and stations and imagine what this could look like in the place where you live.
Executing the Stations of the Cross
Closer to home, First UMC in Taylorsville, NC is hosting a special stations of the cross event on Tuesday, April 12th at 6:30pm. The stations featured are prints painted by the men from Tennessee’s death row. Writer, speaker, and activist Shane Claiborne and First UMC’s pastor, Rev. Joel Simpson will help lead a special showing of these images where participants will walk through these Stations of the Cross and the actions they call us to, reflecting on violence, redemption, mercy, grace, forgiveness and the state-sanctioned execution of Jesus and others.
Learn more on the FUMC Taylorsville Facebook event page. If you are interested in using these images at your own church, you can fill out a form here.
The River’s Lament
Five years ago, I learned about a faith community in Portland Oregon called Wilderness Way. Their pastor, Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, co-created The River’s Lament, a Holy Week ritual walk reminiscent of the tradition of the stations of the cross, that tells the story of the Willamette River. During Holy Week, we open ourselves to the story of Crucifixion. In the River’s Lament, the faithful gather to open themselves to the crucifixion of the planet through the story of the Willamette River. At seven stations along the perimeter of the University of Portland campus, leaders tell the story of the Willamette River, as if the river was telling the story herself. It is a rich and beautiful story, but also a painful one, with elements of betrayal, denial, abuse, and abandonment.
Watch The River’s Lament video linked above and imagine what it could look like to tell the story of a significant natural feature in your community through the lens of one of the stories of our tradition.
Easter Eggs for Ukraine
This year, First UMC Wadesboro is starting a new tradition for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. As Rev. Stacey Lundy describes it, they will give adults empty Easter Eggs and invite them to bring them back with a donation for Ukraine (UMCOR) on Easter. Instead of hunting eggs outside, kids will ‘hunt’ for them in the pews during worship and gather them together. Each student will get a wooden Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanka) as a keepsake rather than all the candy their parents don’t want them to have anyway. Carol Beam, a lay leader at First UMC Wadesboro, said, “We had the idea because we wanted something that would be a little more meaningful than just throwing a bunch of eggs on the lawn. So we thought of the Ukrainian people and that's where the wooden Pysanka egg came in. The Pysanka symbolizes life and rebirth. Ukrainian Christians take their pysankas to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed and then they give them to the people they were made for. We were hoping that the eggs the children collect could be taken to the altar or the Easter cross and we could ask God to take our small offering and use it in a grand way to help people that are hurting all over the world but especially the Ukrainian people. The eggs we have to give them could be a reminder for our children to say a little prayer for people that are hurting.”
As you think about First UMC Wadesboro’s new tradition, consider: what would it look like for your church to emphasize resurrection hope in tangible ways this year?
Whatever traditions old and new are part of your Holy Week and Easter this year, may our churches tell the old, old story in new ways that speak to the pain and hope around us as we seek how God is at work in our lives and world!