Rev. Melissa Cooper

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When Holy Week doesn't feel Holy

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This week, most of my friends are in what some folks call "the clergy Superbowl." While Advent and Christmas are a major undertaking, often that liturgical season is really that: a season. There's lots happening, but over time. And it's often a shared responsibility among many church staff and lay leaders.

Holy Week, though, seems like it most often ends up on the shoulders of clergy. And those shoulders, while strong and broad, are still human. And sometimes, for them, it doesn't feel very Holy. It feels lonely and exhausting.

When I think of an icon of Holy Week, while Jesus is on the list, my modern image is that of Pastor. The pastor who just led a Lenten study, and now is planning a minimum of four services this week, during a time when many schools are on Spring Break, so many of her or his lay leadership may have chosen to take vacation, and during which time the age level leadership is also focused on Spring Break activities or, more likely, hunting colorful eggs and bunnies (I'll never completely understand churches having Easter Egg hunts, but that's for another post ...).

This week is a lot. It's a lot because it's just simply a lot of planning and leading. It's a lot because it's a week where we go through every liturgical emotion we have. And it's a lot because there's pressure to interpret and preach some of the most significant, yet controversial, parts of the Christian tradition in ways that both convict and inspire. 

It's a lot, y'all.

This week, if you're a pastor or church leader who is carrying much of this on your shoulders, I refer to Nadia's tweet above for a great reminder. It's not all on you, and it's not all about you. The truth of Jesus doesn't change based on your liturgy or preaching. Chances are, you've got this.

And if you are a church staff member or lay leadership, ask your pastor how you can be helpful this week. Be there early, stay a little late. Share the load, together.

And if you're a lay member in the pews this week, participate. The greatest appreciation you can show for the work your pastor has put in this week is to truly experience what Holy Week has to offer, from the celebration and exaltation of Palm Sunday, to the camaraderie and servanthood of Maundy Thursday, to the heart-wrenching pain of Good Friday, to the depths of despair on Holy Saturday, and finally to the new alleluias we discover on Easter Sunday. It's an incredible journey, and chances are, your pastor has prepared some incredible ways to experience it. 

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I pray you have a blessed Holy Week, and that it might be a truly Holy experience for you.