Doug and I had decided to try the Episcopal church in Palm Springs, St. Paul's in the Desert, knowing that at least the liturgy would be centered on Palm Sunday. We were not disappointed. The sanctuary was beautifully decorated with giant palm fronds, the pastor was holding a palm branch as he greeted people as they arrived, there was a glorious processional complete with huge palm branches. To top things off, we sang All Glory, Laud and Honor to start the service. There was a deep resonance with some of these traditions even though we are not all that familiar with the Episcopal church. As a part of the service, the entire passion of Christ was read in multiple voices. It was quite a good experience to go from the joy of the Palm Sunday processional through the events of the week ahead, ending with the crucifixion. Some will attend church on Friday and re-enter the Passion of Christ but others will simply jump to Easter and skip over the hard bits of Christ's betrayal, humiliation and death. As we left we were given crosses made from palm fronds, a wonderful reminder of how Palm Sunday and the death of Christ on a cross are linked. We left feeling like we had attended a church to which we could return. This was the first time we've felt this way about any of the churches we've visited. I'm quite sure we will attend either their 12.00 noon Good Friday service or the Stations of the Cross service Friday night. It was such a joy to enter a church that was filled with people and worship in a manner that resonated with us at least on some level.
This is the first holy week in many, many years that we are not busy preparing for the various services and events that have always marked this time of year for us. It's admittedly, a bit odd. I think that is why we were so thrilled to worship with a church today that felt good. It's not that I miss all the preparation that came with holy week...it's just that in seeking to lead others into a meaningful experience leading up to Easter, you had to be intentional about your preparation. It would be quite easy for holy week to slip by sort of unnoticed this year. The service today brought me fully into the events of the week ahead and will definitely help me be more intentional in my own spiritual journey towards Easter than I had anticipated.
I will miss the traditions that always surrounded holy week in Stockholm but I'm thankful for the ways in which God continues to meet me in new and unexpected ways....like being surrounded by palm trees on Palm Sunday.