By now, many of you will have already seen Mother Beth’s note inviting us into a new way of experiencing Holy Week together as a community. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read it, I would encourage you to do so.
In addition to inviting each of us to participate heartily in our online worship opportunities for Holy Week—including services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday—Mother Beth also encourages each household to set aside a sacred space to spend time with God and one another in prayer and reflection.
I want to echo her advice and also share a few thoughts on how families in particular might do this, though households of any shape or form may find them helpful.
For as far back as historians can reckon, people have set aside sacred space. Genesis tells us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each set up altars in the places they felt they’d met God. The Book of Exodus tells us that one of the first things God did after rescuing God’s people from slavery in Egypt was to give them instructions on how to set aside sacred space. God told God’s people to take the precious and holy pieces of their lives—the things they carried with them—and gather them into one place where they could spend time with God and one another.
And that first Easter, Jesus’ friends had gathered again in the Upper Room, the place where they had shared the bread and cup. Where he had washed their feet. And where (spoiler alert) Mary Magdalene would first announce the Good News of the Resurrection.
I would like to invite each of us to spend time reflecting on the precious and holy things of our lives—whatever those might be for you and your household—and set aside a sacred space in our home. Space to spend time with God and one another.
Below, you’ll find some suggestions for creating your own sacred space at home. The materials list includes things that we will use throughout the week for our observance of Holy Week: branches or palm coloring sheets for Palm Sunday, stones for the tomb on Good Friday, a candle for the Easter Vigil, and so on.
Once you’ve assembled your sacred space, we’d love to see them, if you’d like to share! Post them on social media using #homealtar and tag Trinity Church Wall Street (@trinitywallst).
While I am sad that we can’t celebrate this holy season together in person this year, know that the promise of Easter remains and that God is always with us. You are all, as always, in my prayers.
The Rev. Matt Welsch
Priest for Youth and Families
- This Week
- Creating a Home Altar
- Holy Week Home Altar Devotionals
- For Children and Families
- For Youth
- For Adults
- Tough Times Resources
Creating a Home Altar
The purpose of this activity is to set aside a sacred space in your home where you and your household can intentionally spend time with God and one another. This activity is designed to encourage you and your household to spend time in conversation together as you select the precious and holy things you already have and gather them together in one place. Some of these items are specifically intended for devotional use during Holy Week. Setting aside sacred space at home is appropriate any time of year, so feel free to leave your home altars up, especially during this time when we can’t gather together in our church home.
For the Home Altar
- A pretty piece of fabric (examples: table cloth, scarf, placemat—something pretty!)
- Bible, if you have one
- Book of Common Prayer, if you have one
- Cross, if you have one (you can always make one using popsicle sticks, twigs, or pipe cleaners, or even just draw one!)
- A candle or two
- Incense, if you have it
- Additional precious and holy things unique to you—pictures of loved ones, mementos, artwork, a plant, whatever speaks to you. Make sure everyone in the household is able to bring at least one item that’s special to them.
Objects Specific to Holy Week
- A few branches, leaves, or twigs for Palm Sunday
- Optional: Palm Branch coloring page
- A special cup, wineglass, or coffee mug for Maundy Thursday
- Small rocks or stones for Good Friday
- A candle for the Easter Vigil
- A small piece of white fabric (a napkin, scarf, even gauze would work!) for Easter Sunday
- Optional: Alleluia coloring sheet
- Select your space—a small table, a bookshelf, windowsill, whatever space you can set aside!—and agree as a household to set this space apart. Discuss: Why did you choose this space? What makes it feel special or holy or different?
- Clean the area! Discuss: How and why do we take care of the things (and even people and places!) that are important to us?
- Lay out the cloth in whatever way feels appropriate to you. Discuss: Why did you choose this cloth? What do you notice about it?
- As a family, spend time choosing and gathering the materials above. Color in any coloring sheets. Make crosses. Talk about the Bible or prayer book. Share why you chose these items in particular.
- Place these items around the space in whatever way makes most sense for you. Discuss: Why did you choose these items specifically? Why are they special? How do they remind you of God?
- Place the items around the space in whatever way feels meaningful and reverent to you. Discuss: What do you notice? Where do you see Jesus in this space?
- Say the Lord’s Prayer together. Say a prayer using your own words or words like these: Dear Jesus, thank you for this time together. May this space remind us that you are with us. Help us to know that, no matter what, you will always love us. Amen.
Holy Week Home Altar Devotionals
On Palm Sunday
- Watch the webcast service from Trinity Church at 11:15am.
- Hold up your branches or coloring sheets for the blessing of the palms.
- Wave your branches or palm coloring sheets during the procession.
On Maundy Thursday
- Watch the webcast service from Trinity Church at 6:15pm.
- Hold up the cup. Why did you choose this cup?
- Remember that, on this night, Jesus offered himself for his friends—including us.
- Think about a time you shared a meal with someone you loved. What was it like?
On Good Friday
- Watch the webcast service from Trinity Church at 12:05pm.
- Hold up the stones—think about the heavy stone they rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb.
- What are the heavy things in our lives?
On Holy Saturday
- Watch the webcast service from Trinity Church at 7:30pm.
- Light the big candle when the Paschal Candle is lit. This candle represents the hope of the Resurrection.
- What are the things you hope for? Offer those hopes and prayers to God.
On Easter Sunday
- Watch the webcast service from Trinity Church at 11:15am.
- Wave your Alleluia Banner.
- Hold the white fabric. Think about the burial cloths, rolled aside. What are the things God might be calling you to let go of? Where do you see God in your life?
For Children and Families
There are moments in our ordinary lives and in the liturgical cycle that are “hinge,” or transition times, that when ritualized can be the sinews that connect us with God and people across time and space. They are befores and afters of something momentous; something holy. We mark our time by these, and they activate our muscle memory and become integrated into the rhythms of our lives, often indelibly for developing children. The making and “burying” of the Alleluia Banner is one of these. Remember Mardi Gras, when we did that? When we ate pancakes, burned the palms, made the banner, hid it in the Sacristy, and danced? That was before the schools closed, before everything—before Lent.
Today, Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, during which we enter into the Paschal Mystery in its Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. Each of these three are observed as momentous and as the final hinge of Lent that opens the tomb to Christ’s resurrection, which will be announced on Easter with a jubilant—wait for it—“Alleluia!”
- Illustrated Ministry and Sunday Paper Jr. worship bulletins for children
- A Palm Sunday treasure hunt for the 11:15am service
- The team at Trinity Retreat Center had a small Palm Sunday procession with donkey Fern and her son Buster.
- Coloring pages—an Alleluia butterfly, a palm, and a "praying for" page
- Create a Holy Week box
Even though we can’t meet in person, Trinity Youth are still showing up for one another! Each week, Fr. Matt Welsch is hosting a weekly drop-in Zoom call along with Karla Chee-a-Tow, Jenn Chinn, and Damali Lewis. All Trinity Youth are invited to join us—whether you can stay for the whole call or just hop on for a few minutes when you’re able. Please text or email Matt for more information or to get the link so you can join the next call.
Reflections on Matthew 21:1–11
Let’s take a moment to notice that, in this time when the events we’re living through may be a global turning point, the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem marks a similarly dramatic shift in the gospel narrative. It’s easy to miss how profoundly Jesus’ actions change the terms of the game. A friend told me that she’s heard the story since she was a little girl, so it’s difficult to see it as anything other than a nice tale about a man on a donkey (or, in Matthew’s version, two!). One way to get a fresh look at a familiar text is to start from a different place. Notice how, in 21:10, when Jesus enters the city, the crowd shifts from praise to “Who’s this?” We learn that “the whole city was in turmoil.” In other translations, the city was “moved,” “shaken,” and “stirred.” The Greek word translated here is seió—the root of the English “seismic.” Something big is happening!
How is our time like theirs? Palm Sunday is the gateway to Holy Week and Easter. The story of Holy Week contains sadness and suffering. We see those things around us with particular clarity this year, both caused by the virus and exposed by it. We are called to pay attention. The word the people shout to Jesus is “hosanna,” which is simultaneously a cry of joy and also a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “please save.” Where do we hear those cries today? Marcus Borg tells us that when Jesus was arriving on the donkey, Pilate would have been riding in on the other side of Jerusalem on a war horse, leading Roman troops—a show of force at the beginning of Passover week, when nationalist fervor would rise. Jesus offered a humble yet firm resistance to injustice and oppression, one that would go with him to the grave on Good Friday, only to rise on Easter and work in the world to this day and onto the last.
The answer to “Who’s this?” is “the prophet Jesus” (v. 11). The prophet’s role was “to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). May we move through this Holy Week with eyes and hearts open to the suffering in our world while at same time looking toward Easter. With God’s help may we discern the things we need to change, the shape of the new world that can emerge, and the ways, large and small, we’re called to participate.
- What does the present moment feel like to you?
- If hosanna is both a cry of joy and a plea for help, at this moment what are your joys? Where do you seek help?
- If you are a person for whom this time of “social distancing” provides greater opportunity for reflection, what practices might help you—prayer, meditation, reading of scripture or other spiritual texts, service that can be practiced safely, group discussion online?
Prayer from Psalm 118
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. Amen.
Lenten Meditations is offered by the Trinity worshiping community, clergy, and staff to offer reflection and inspiration throughout this holy season.
Tough Times Resources
- A peaceful night: Bedtime blog post by Wendy Claire Barrie
- Faithful parenting in a pandemic blog post by Wendy Claire Barrie
- Current Realities and the New College Experience — A professor addresses COVID-19 for parents and students
- Coping with Corona: Mental health supports in a pandemic