Holy Week Reflections
Every young clergy’s favorite Tumblr, “Ev’ry Day I’m Pastorin’” could not have put it any better when describing Holy Week from a minister’s perspective. After a full week of daily services at my own church, additional services at school and within the community, and a full load of homework, I am exhausted. But as I reflect back on the week, I feel a renewed sense of my call to ministry within the world.
The Divinity School, as well as the greater Winston-Salem community, provides several unique services including, Walking the Labyrinth, First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue’s Seven Last Words Service, and Centenary Methodist’s Tenebrae Service.
At the beginning of the week, Chris Copeland (the school’s Assistant Director of Leadership Development) guided students through the ancient, contemplative practice of walking a labyrinth in the Lower Auditorium (picture, lower left). This practice offers an alternative means of reflection and discernment by inviting students to engage in movement rather than simply sitting still. Participants followed a circular maze moving from the outside inward and back out. This pattern serves as a metaphor for our spiritual pilgrimage. The process of listening and experiencing God takes place in community as participants joined hands and walked together. Labyrinths create a means of experiencing the Holy through the rhythm of movement.
At noon on Good Friday, Wake Div students, faculty, and staff joined with FBC Highland’s congregation for their annual Seven Last Words Service. Six Third Year students from the divinity school and Dr. Dunn gave five-minute reflections on the seven last phrases spoken by Jesus.The readings were supplemented with a beautiful and haunting rendition of Were You There. The preachers spoke according to their tradition, personal experiences, and theology. The dynamic diversity of voices and messages were powerful. The service concluded with the taking of communion and the sharing of a meal.
Later that evening Centenary United Methodist in downtown Winston-Salem held a Tenebrae Service in which Jesus’ death narrative was interwoven with magnificent singing and the extinguishing of sevens candles in relation to each of Jesus’ seven last words. Silence and darkness set the solemn mood for the service calling us in to deep reflection. At the conclusion of the service we sat in darkness as the Christ candle was carried out of the sanctuary. We left speechless, reflecting on the tragedy of Good Friday, and the darkness still present in our world today.
These are just a few of the many services that our students took part in and attended. But more than a marathon of events, Holy Week is a transformative time for Christians to acknowledge the presence of injustice, pain, and suffering within the Biblical narrative and our own lives. Liturgical scholar, Nathan Mitchell writes that there is dirt underneath God’s fingernails from becoming flesh and working with people. With this understanding he believes that worship should not create an alternative world that offers Christians a place to retreat, but worship should be a place and practice where all are welcome to come and be changed. As we walked through Holy Week, our feet might have followed the physical maze of the Labyrinth, or we may have navigated busy schedules full of special services amongst our daily lives, but if we let ourselves become fully immersed in the alternative rhythm of this week, listen to the stories, and sit in the darkness, we cannot resist transformation.