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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: Marking Holy Week Together and Individually-3.21.24

During Holy Week next week our community marks several occasions to tell the story of Jesus’ last days together, as one body. We engage in a kind of remembering called anamnesis, memory that not only reenacts an event, but makes it present in important ways. 

Maundy Thursday is a powerful example of this, as we enter into the experience of Jesus’ last night. His last supper comes alive in Agape meal and at Eucharist. We live into the call to serve one another, to take the place of the least, by washing one another’s feet, and allowing our own feet to be washed. We enter deeply into the desolation of passion by stripping the altar of all finery and ornament. We leave in darkness and silence.

On Good Friday at noon, our Christian churches will gather at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 120 N. Easton Rd, Glenside, PA 19038, to participate in a community Stations of the Cross. We will walk through our Glenside neighborhood with St. Peter’s Easter cross, telling the story of Jesus’ walk to the cross. That evening at 7 p.m., our community tells the stories of salvation while experience the darkening of our worship space. We fast from Eucharist. We again leave in silence and darkness.

Our Deanery community is again gathering as one church on Holy Saturday at St. Thomas, Whitemarsh, for a liturgy that begins in smoke and darkness and ends with Easter Joy and light – the first taste of Easter.  Attending this liturgy this year, not only reminds us of our identity of Christ’s body beyond our parish community, but it is a way to offer solidarity and comfort to our communities that continue to grieve the death of The Rev. Emily Richards. Placing her beloved life in the context of the resurrection of Easter is an invitation to further healing in our loss.

All of these Holy Week encounters call us into the power of communal memory, prayer and action. They are powerful acts in a culture that is both actively suffering and willfully ignoring Christ’s passion, which is also playing out in the suffering of people both at hand and far away. If you have time to attend one or more of these liturgies this week, I encourage you to be part of this collective action.

If you cannot attend a liturgy this week, there are also opportunities to mark this week on your own time, at your own pace. Starting this Sunday and continuing through Holy Week, a self-guided booklet on the Stations of the Cross will be available in the church. The guide is based on ten images from Kathrin Burlesch's The Soul's Journey: An Artist's Approach to the Stations of the Cross, prints of which will be in the window wells of the church. You can stop by the church any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to meditate upon these powerful images and pray individually or with a few friends.

Additionally, the Garden of Repose, which recalls the story of Gethsemane, will again be available in the St. Philip’s Chapel for private prayer and meditation. This space will be available from Thursday, March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.  and from Friday, March 29 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The invitation of Holy Week is to connect our walk as Christ’s Body to the suffering Jesus experienced in his own Body at this time.  It is not limited to the events listed above. A prayerful and meditative walk in the woods, the recitation of a rosary, a few hours or a day of fasting, a night vigil at home with a candle and the bible, even an act of service to people in the community who are suffering from loss, poverty or loneliness, are all ways that you can mark this week.

However you mark this upcoming week, let it be a time to offer your own compassionate care for the suffering of Jesus then and now. Let it be a time to acknowledge our own need for redemption, forgiveness, and Easter life.

Information on all Holy Week liturgies and offerings can be found on the St Peter’s webpage here.

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