As a former United Methodist and preacher’s kid turned Episcopal priest, I have a pretty wide range of what I find liturgically inspiring. I was raised on what I would call the “Ol’ Timey Hymns,” I discovered praise and guitar music in college, I found the joy of call-and-response preaching and participatory music at a primarily African-American church where I was a member, I discovered Anglican choral music at the Cathedral that sponsored me for ordination, I was immersed in “high church” worship during seminary where my alb constantly smelled like incense, I discovered the joys of a paid professional choir who could chant choral matins, and I have served in churches with praise bands. I have been known to crank up the gospel channel on Sunday mornings on my way to church before listening to traditional chant during the services later that morning.
So imagine my joy when I found a church that seemed to capture a good portion of the variety and breadth of my own liturgical experience. The diversity of worship at Hickory Neck reveals an embarrassment of riches. We are so blessed with a variety of liturgical and music leaders that I still do not have a favorite service. Of course, fitting that diversity into one Sunday can be tricky. That is one of the millions of reasons why I love Holy Week so much, especially at Hickory Neck! Over the course of a week, we celebrate Palm Sunday, we lead a quiet compline digitally via Facebook live, our Praise Band leads us in a contemplative Taize service, our Congregational Choir and local ecumenical clergy lead us in a healing service, our Choral Scholars lead us in a beautiful foot washing and altar-stripping service, we retreat into quiet on Good Friday midday, but then our youth lead us in a powerful Stations of the Cross service that night, our liturgical team puts together an amazing Easter Vigil, and then the brass rings in Easter Sunday. In one week, we get the fullness of Hickory Neck on dazzling display.
I do not know what life is like for you these days. But if you are in the position to give yourself the gift of Holy Week, I highly recommend it. The full experience allows you to create a sort of pilgrimage, and certainly makes Easter Day a much more powerful experience. But even if you can only catch a few services, realize that each night’s service is like a carefully crafted gift, meant to create an encounter between you and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even if you have been feeling distant from God lately, I know most churches are happy to have you slip into a back pew, take in what you need, and slip back out into the world. Lord knows I have sometimes showed up at the doors of a church not entirely sure why I was there, but left knowing exactly why the Holy Spirit had drawn me there. If you do not have a church home and want to join us in the feast of Holy Week, you have a church home at Hickory Neck. If you are reading from further away, I hope you will share with me your experiences this coming Holy Week.