Christ is Risen! The Clergy are Dead!Posted: April 5, 2010
As happens every Easter Monday, I’m nursing an Easter hangover. It’s a hangover that has nothing to with alcohol and everything to do with eleven services in five days. I’m sermoned out, incensed out, liturgied out, and bulletined out. And yet the warm glow of the resurrection and sharing the journey with the people of St. John’s leaves me feeling fulfilled, if exhausted.
It is a privilege to lead a congregation through the Christian “High Holy Days.” It is a gift of priesthood that I cherish even as it sucks all the life and energy out of me. In baseball (and since yesterday was Opening Day as well as Easter I feel justified in using this analogy) ballplayers talk about “leaving it all on the field” to describe an effort where they gave their all. I like to think I left it all in the sanctuary. And most clergy I know feel the same way — the hours of preparation and intense planning eventually come together in meaningful, profound, dramatic, and joyful liturgy. But it’s a lot of work.
One of the aspects I love about Holy Week is that I try to keep my calendar. I don’t schedule meetings (if I can help it) so that I can focus exclusively on the liturgies and the pile of sermons that need to be written. Things always arise of course — that’s Murphy’s Law of Holy Week: Things will not go according to plan. This usually means that the copier will stop working just as the Good Friday bulletins are ready to print or, as happened this year, two people died during Holy Week. This is the stuff of life that gets interposed on top of the liturgical year. And all you can do is be present pastorally and/or curse the copier and move on.
This was a particularly meaningful and intense Holy Week for me being in a new parish. In a sense I felt as if I was just trying to stay one service ahead of the curve. It makes a big difference when you plan out all the liturgical details in a new space. The comfort of being in the same church for a number of years is that you know the traditions, you know where the large wooden cross for Good Friday lives, you know who will set up the flowers for Easter, you know where to put the foot washing stations for Maundy Thursday, you know where you’ll have the choir stand at the start of the Easter Vigil, etc. If you have any control issues at all (and what rector doesn’t?) you have to give some of them up and rely on your key parishioners to assist with the details. I’m lucky to have a number of folks at St. John’s who are just as passionate about liturgy as I am.
So it was a lot and I’m feeling the effects — never again will it be my first Holy Week and Easter at St. John’s and next year, God willing, I’ll have a curate in place to share the burden and the joy. But it was also a wonderful journey. Attendance at Holy Week services was higher than it’s ever been and between the Easter Vigil and the three Easter Day services we saw 700 people. A great opportunity to share the gospel of the risen Christ in this community. There is much to build upon and, with God’s help, I look forward to doing so.
In the meantime, I cringe to think of all the things I put off “until after Easter.” But they can wait until tomorrow. I have a hangover to nurse.