Q We hear a lot about people “giving things up for Lent.” What implications might this practice have for corporate worship?
A Individuals often go without a certain food or activity as a way to make Jesus’ journey toward the cross more prominent in their life. But perhaps congregations could consider similar practices or emphases communally.
If giving up chocolate or Coke helps a person focus more intensely during the forty days of Lent, imagine how a congregation’s Lenten worship might enrich its Lenten journey. Could Lenten worship perhaps utilize a “less is more” approach, emphasizing more time for silence and contemplation, while deemphasizing the use of technology?
In his book High-Tech Worship? Quentin Schultze asks a simple question: Which holy days should be more silent and pensive? He suggests that “a low-tech, exceedingly simple, and perhaps even stark service on Good Friday could reasonably be followed by a fully celebrative and multimedia service on Easter.” However, technology could also be used to project art and photography for times of quiet reflection and prayer.
Last year several of my seminary students gave up the Internet, including social media applications such as Facebook, for Lent. What might the congregational version of that be? How might our Lenten worship provide a different sort of digital diet? Churches can wrestle with these questions in their own context during the Lenten season.
I know of one large church that took a year’s sabbatical from its annual Christmas pageant just to give the congregation a time of rest. Perhaps Lent could be a natural time for more rest in worship for all of our senses. Schultze writes, “Good worship provides time for hearing the voice of God in the stillness of our dependence.”
Lent might be just the right time for more corporate prayer, penitence, giving, and self-denial. Church members could also be encouraged to bring an offering of staples for the local food pantry—and maybe those chocolates they’ve given up!
Q Is it appropriate for churches to host Easter egg hunts? How do churches keep the focus on the resurrection when our culture has captured our kids’ interest in bunnies and candy?
A When deciding whether or not to host an Easter egg hunt, consider the people within and around your congregation. Would it be a good way to connect with your neighbors, and could that connection ultimately direct them beyond the fun and games to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Consider whether your members would join in and enjoy the event with their neighbors.
The tradition of Easter eggs has long been a part of religious practice. The egg was used for thousands of years in ancient Egyptian, Persian, and Roman cultures as a springtime symbol of the earth’s rebirth. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or dyed by boiling them with flower petals.
Early Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection—new life breaking free from the grave. Later, Orthodox Christians dyed Easter eggs red for the blood of Christ, with the hard shell symbolizing the cracking of the tomb and the resurrection. Christian missionaries in the second century also made the connection for evangelistic purposes, adopting the pagan festival celebrating the goddess of spring (“Eastre,” represented by a rabbit) as a resurrection celebration. So an Easter egg hunt at your church might be renewing a very old church outreach practice!
For many Christians, eggs and other animal products were not eaten during Lent. But since chickens kept laying eggs regardless, surplus eggs were boiled and preserved for Easter celebrations. Today in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of Lent and distributed to the faithful. Each household also brings an Easter basket to church filled with Easter eggs and other Easter foods.
If your church decides to have an Easter egg hunt, consider leading into it with a series of children’s lessons that help kids move from eggs to Easter. Show them—in an age-appropriate way—how to tell their friends about the first Easter, based on the Easter experiences they are having today. Kids are surprisingly smart in these situations and may spread the gospel story more quickly than rabbits!
For more information on technology in worship and Schultze's insights, see the following links: