Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Easter Egg Edition


Post Author: Askie


7917892_09e9961302_oDear Askie,

I have been informed in no uncertain terms that it is the tradition of my church to hold an Easter Egg Hunt on the afternoon of the Friday before Easter. “The afternoon of the Friday before Easter.” Really. They think it’s really great, because the kids have that day off from school and it gives them something to do. I like fun as much as the next Minister of Word and Sacrament, but for the love of all that is holy, what am I going to do about this?

Yours in apoplexy,

Liturgically Correct Curmudgeon

 

Dear Curmudgeon,

Oh goodness.

Sometimes the sacred and secular worlds get along just fine. Other times there is some tension between them. And sometimes, I guess, even church folks get drawn in by the siren call of secular culture, in direct opposition to the church and its traditions. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect example than this one: “On Good Friday, the day traditionally set apart for remembering Jesus’ suffering and death, we dress our children in pastel-colored clothing and send them out to hunt for brightly colored plastic eggs filled with candy!”

Askie has a number of questions, so let’s start with the most pressing. At this Easter egg hunt, do they also bring in one of those monstrous bunny-people in the huge wicker chairs? Because those things are the stuff of nightmares.

Getting down to business, though, Curmudgeon, since you’re just now hearing of this egg hunt tradition, it sounds like this is your first year in this call, so you may need to proceed with extra caution. Clergy are often advised not to change anything in the first year. It might be best to treat this as your “listening year” – watch your congregation for a year, learn how they observe the various seasons and holidays, listen to what’s important to them, and you may be in a much better position to make changes the next time Easter rolls around. When it’s time to make those changes, Curmudgeon, figure out what your priorities are. This is a pretty important one, but I’d peg a “Good Friday egg hunt” congregation as pretty likely to also be a “Christmas carols all December” congregation, and an “American flag on the altar for Independence Day” congregation. Taking those all on at once is a pretty tall order, so be strategic.

When you’re ready to move ahead on this one, take a few deep breaths, spend some time in prayer, and work on non-anxious, self-differentiated presence. Remember that your congregants are unlikely to respond well to outrage, disdain, and liturgical self-righteousness, justified though those feelings may be. (Askie had them herself on your behalf as she read your letter.) You’ll likely need to do some teaching as you guide your congregation toward shifting their tradition. They may not be especially familiar with liturgical seasons, and you may need to show them how the rhythm of the church year helps us practice our Christian faith. You may encounter some anti-Catholic sentiments, and you may need to encourage your congregants to re-examine what divides Protestantism and Catholicism, what unites us, and whether we really need to carry the torch of acrimony we’ve inherited from our forebears about this division in Christ’s body.

You may find it helpful to play up the idea of the church as counter-cultural, and to start in areas that have nothing to do with Easter eggs. Askie’s favorite angle is that the secular world defines our worth by material possessions and monetary success, but in the church, we believe that our worth comes from our identity as created and redeemed children of God. When they are used to hearing, “The world says X, but the church says Y,” it might start to be easier for them to hear, “The world says Easter is about candy and bunnies, but the church says it’s about the resurrection of Christ.” And once they get that, they may be able to see why it matters to walk the journey from Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion to his resurrection, and how a Good Friday egg hunt might be counter-productive to that purpose.

I hope they don’t just cancel the egg hunt, though! Maybe when they’re ready, you can help them think about what that event does for the community, and find a better way to fulfill some of the same needs. Could they reschedule the egg hunt (hopefully not to Holy Saturday), and have you offer a welcome that brings in themes of faith? Could they organize some family-friendly activity more appropriate to the solemnity of the day? How can they offer service and witness to the wider world? How can they follow Paul’s advice: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2)?

They may never be ready, though, Curmudgeon, and you may need to discern how much of a curmudgeon you’re going to be about this, as we each need to discern how we will walk the line between secular and sacred. Does your polity allow you to call the egg hunt off altogether, and is that worth the bridges you’ll burn in doing so? Maybe you are called to minister by letting the egg hunt go on as usual while you build up meaningful new Holy Week worship services. Maybe you are called to minister by attending the egg hunt and talking to the kids about Jesus, in hope that your words plant a seed of faith. It’s a decision that only you can make, Curmudgeon, based on your convictions and your context.

No matter what happens this Easter, and the one after that, Curmudgeon, may God give you compassion, wisdom, and grace to help your flock draw closer to Christ.

Blessings,
Askie


Image by: Cassidy
Used with permission
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