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On the Way   The Rt. Rev. Audrey Scanlan
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“Palm Sunday” by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese

No, it wasn’t the same.

It wasn’t the same at all.

A lifetime of shouting “Hosanna!” “Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!” “Hosanna to the Son of David!”, and, later (and less enthusiastically) “Crucify him, Crucify him!”… no, I didn’t do that today.

I didn’t sprinkle holy water over palms, march (albeit a little awkwardly) down the main drag in an ecclesiastical game of Follow the Leader Crucifer, smile to myself watching children run up and down the sides of the parade delighted at breaking all the usual rules of church, or wonder if we would, this year, be even close to the same key as the organist when we re-entered the building singing “All Glory, Laud and Honor.” Nope. Not that.

I didn’t break bread at an altar, drink deeply from a large chalice filled with sweet wine, or join with the congregation in retelling the Passion of our Lord. Not this year.

Instead, I got up, pressed the “brew” button on the coffee maker, and after my morning routine of feeding the cats, writing in my day book, offering prayer and reading for a short time, I opened my laptop.

Within five minutes I was in tears.

Not because of everything that I was missing, but because of what I saw.

My first stop was at St. Thomas’ Church (Lancaster) where I viewed a “procession” which was a photo essay/movie of pictures that the congregation had sent in with them each holding a palm that (The Rev.) Jennifer had blessed, sanitized and set in the mail to each family in her congregation. They were instructed to take a photo of themselves holding the palm and to send it in to be stitched into a great parish “procession.” Because she had thoughtfully sent one to me, too, I played along and sent my photo. And there, just as a procession would be – with the crucifer at the front, followed by children and the parish family and clergy at the end… there I was, at the tail end- the bishop, always the “caboose.” I cried. A lovely rendition of “All Glory, Laud and Honor” played through the “procession” and- if my husband had not been still asleep- I would have shouted a great “Hosanna.” (I murmured it, instead, into my coffee cup, still a little shy about cyber-worship and not wanting to wake the sleeping giant.)

After that, I watched our diocesan offering: A Palm Sunday “program” in three parts from the Pro-Cathedral: the blessing of Palms, a neighborhood missional walk, and the reading of the Passion. The Rev. Canon Ken Wagner-Pizza,Provost; The Rev. Canon Chris Streeter, Canon for Mission Development and Innovation; Ms. Sarah Reid, and Children’s choir director and assistant organist Leatha Kieser led us through the three parts. I loved that the great armful of palms were left out front of the church for anyone to pick up as they walked by. I also loved learning a little bit about the hope and the needs of the area as the usual procession turned into a neighborhood walk to discover the role of the church in its local context, and the reading of the Passion was stark- the four readers sat socially distant from each other like four points in some kind of holy constellation in the chancel, drawing us through the story, moment by moment- to its tragic and empty end. The program ended with a beautiful rendition of “Ah Holy Jesus” (Herzliebster Jesu) sung by Canon Streeter who, in another life, was trained as a professional baritone…

No, it wasn’t its usual day. No coffee hour with chocolate eggs to buy and tuck away for Easter. No hot cross buns. I finished cleaning the basement rec room right afterwards, washing baseboards with a soapy rag on my hands and knees and listening to a CD of Christopher Parkening play Bach preludes and fugues on his classical guitar. It was just the solitary, reflective time that I needed to sort out that this was the beginning of a Holy Week that would be like none other in my life… and that I was prepared to receive its riches.

(I will be blogging each day of Holy Week reflecting on what I have experienced- in cyber ministry and my Stay at Home lifestyle as we approach the paschal feast.)

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