There is no other week in the Christian calendar that brings us from the highs of Palm Sunday to the darkness of Maundy Thursday to the depths of Good Friday and back to the pinnacle of Easter Sunday. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride! And as a congregation, we embody and relive some of that raucous and then solemn and then joyful journey.
Palm Sunday was jubilant at Plymouth, including the most vigorous palm-frond waving I’ve ever seen! But it doesn’t really work in a narrative sense to skip right from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This isn’t a week without deep intimacy and tragedy, and to miss that is to diminish the capital-M Mystery of Easter. As is often said, we cannot have Easter’s resurrection without Good Friday’s crucifixion.
My son Chris’s favorite service of the year is the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service, which demonstrates the shadowy nature of the Last Supper and crucifixion. Many young people “get” the drama of this service, and this year Brooklyn McBride will gather our youngest worshippers and supply them with glowsticks! Our hard-working deacons arrange a simple soup supper at 6:15 in advance of the 7:00 service. (So sorry that snow and frigid temperatures caused us to cancel the Ash Wednesday soup supper!) Join us for this service that will help all of us understand, in both a cerebral and an affective way, the final steps in Jesus’ ministry.
Good Friday is the day of tragedy for Christians. (Even the New York Stock Exchange stops trading for the day!) And we are providing a midday opportunity for you to join us at Plymouth at 12:15 for a program of organ music, spoken word, and quiet meditation. It is a service that helps us as worshipers to feel and acknowledge a small part of the depths of human tragedy.
Easter Sunday at Plymouth reflects the triumph of God’s YES to life, of God’s realm over empire, of love over violence. Our worship embodies this with glorious hymns and alleluias, brass and timpani, abundant flowers, and a celebration of the resurrection. Easter Sunday at Plymouth also means cinnamon rolls from the Silver Grill at 10:00 and an Easter Egg Hunt at the same time. (Did you know that blown Easter eggs reflect the empty tomb and that an Easter egg roll is emblematic of rolling the stone away from the tomb?) I would strongly recommend arriving early for either the 9:00 or 11:00 service. It’s also a great Sunday to invite a friend to church, someone who might need the gift of Plymouth in their lives.
For me, Easter has a special meaning this year. We all have lived through the shadows and depths of the pandemic, and it seems that as a world and as a congregation, we finally are experiencing resurrection. As Paul intimates, it is with a somewhat different body. The world is not exactly the same as it was three years ago, nor is Plymouth the same as it was before Covid. But we are here to testify to its resurrection.
P.S We are “mask-friendly” at Plymouth, so you are welcome to wear a mask but are not required to do so.
P.P.S. You can find the livestreams (and recordings) of the midweek services on our Holy Week & Easter page.
The synergy of brass and timpani, organ, and a singing congregation expressing acclamations of Easter joy — jubilation. A reinvigorated Chancel Choir enthusiastically offering anthems of praise and thanksgiving with new members joining the merry band of singers — rejuvenation. The gentle peal of bells by the Plymouth Ringers during communion reminding us of the transformative message of assured hope in Eastertide — a quiet joy. The diversity of worshipers in the sanctuary on Easter morning of all ages, races and creeds, faces familiar and strangers warmly welcomed — a blessed community. And many more instances we each could share revealing those precious slivers of light in these ever-emerging days of life and vitality—Paschal blessings.
Easter Sunday morning was truly a Day of Resurrection. We have seen it manifest slowly over the previous few months with faithful hope sustaining us these past two years. But what a joy it was to experience! Even the return of Plymouth's Easter cinnamon rolls tradition (no Covid protocols this time.. just grab and eat!) carried an impact no one would ever thought possible in a pre-pandemic world.
May our cherishing of life and love continue forward. Forever.
Mark Heiskanen is Plymouth's Dir. of Music and Organist. Learn more about him and read his weekly Music Minute here.
You may have wanted to fill those blanks in with a four-letter word other than “Week,” but resist the temptation! The last year has been filled with more “pivots” and “adaptive challenges” than any in our lifetimes.
Our very first livestreamed service was on March 15 (the Ides of March!), 2020, as we started to learn more about the spread of the novel coronavirus that would change so many lives, as well as changing our nation, community, and congregation.
And while it may seem slightly premature, I want to express my gratitude to each of you for being patient, keeping yourself and others safe, demonstrating flexibility, and going with the flow as much as you have! Please keep up the great work…we’re getting closer to the end of the pandemic day by day.
I just returned from a meeting in Santa Fe with two of my three UCC CREDO colleagues (and am self-quarantining), and even though ours is the largest of the four congregations, ours is the only one of those four UCC churches that has not lost a member to COVID. That has required sacrifice and selflessness and generosity of spirit…way to go, Plymouth!
Our Pandemic Team continues to monitor developments and is taking a deliberately slow pace in restarting our in-person activities. This month, our Middle School and High School Youth Groups are having their first gatherings with ten or fewer participants, masks, distancing, and open windows in the Fellowship Hall. If that goes well, we’ll extend that opening to other fellowship and spirituality groups within the congregation.
Holy Week is not far off — there are only two more Sundays in Lent! And we are busy planning for an online Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service, a noontime organ concert on Good Friday, and an online ecumenical Good Friday service at 7:00 p.m. Easter Sunday will feature three different services: a drive-in service in our parking lot at 8:00 a.m., a recorded service (with brass!) at 10:00, and an interactive Zoom service at 6:00 p.m. (And for the kids there will be an in-person Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday…sign up by March 28 at plymouthucc.org/kids.)
We’ve had to make adjustment this year…lots of them. Thank you for hanging in there and being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I’m very grateful to you and proud of all of us at Plymouth. Blessings as we walk through these final days of Lent.
What is a 21st century, nutrition-minded, progressive church thinking in sponsoring an Easter Egg hunt? What do eggs have to do with resurrection anyway?
The Venerable Bede may have gifted us with the goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre, back in the 700s. Eostre’s traditions may even date back to Ishtar in ancient Babylonia. Eostre’s ancient fertility symbol, eggs, were simply folded into the pagan/Christian mix of “oh, why not?” like evergreens and a donkey at Christmas.
At least Santa has some attachment to St. Nicholas who was a real, fourth century, church person, who did gift people in secret. Nicholas just got adapted over the years by a poetic professor, newspaper editor, soft drink manufacturers, and an economy that soon became based on Christmas and fourth quarter earnings.
So, back to Eostre/Ishtar and eggs. Why bother if it isn’t even Christian?
Cue the fiddler--because it is tradition, and traditions hold us together--especially in pandemic times. Maybe even more than we care to admit. I remember the smell of vinegar while coloring hard boiled eggs at my mother’s kitchen table, and with my children at our kitchen table. I remember churches smelling a bit too much of lilies, and helping my dad slice ham for my grandmother’s Easter dinner. Tradition.
I’ve smiled at many parents who are far more enthusiastic about their toddler finding a plastic egg than the child, who is still focused more on just staying upright. But the parent is also remembering Easter traditions and celebrating another milestone with their child.
And theology? Personally I can see Jesus at an egg hunt cheering the children on, pointing the overwhelmed child toward an egg the others have missed. Jesus would keep an extra egg or two in his pockets to hide just for the child who has arrived late.
And I can certainly see Jesus wanting young children to understand Easter not in terms of victory over humiliation, torture and death, but in terms of pure joy in new life. As the hymn says, “Every Morning is Easter Morning.” What if we lived everyday as if our basket were full of our favorite chocolate eggs? And what if that joy happened with our church family?
To maintain social distancing, you must sign up for the 2021 Plymouth Easter Egg Hunt. I’ll see you Saturday, April 3 between 10 and noon. It’s BYOBM (Bring Your Own Basket and Mask).
We can make Easter a celebration of joy that passes understanding, even in this crazy time of pandemic.
Tricia Medlock is returning to the interim position she held between Plymouth directors Sarah Wernsing and Mandy Hall. After leaving the Plymouth staff, she served as director of Children’s Ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal for four years. Read more.