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The Rev. Anne Clarke and her husband, Myles.

The Rev. Anne Clarke and her husband, Myles.

When my husband Myles and I joined the Episcopal Church 10 years ago, we went through a great class with another group of seekers that culminated at the Easter Vigil. Though I’d grown up going to Holy Week services, I’d mostly mentally filed them as “extra church services that happen before Easter.” But there was something about going through each of the Holy Week services that year — Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil — that captured my attention in a new way.

On Maundy Thursday, I helped to serve soup and washed the feet of some of the strange, lovely little crew of people that I’d come to see as my faith community: the Baptist retiree who came to church with his wife a few times and became fascinated by the Eucharist; the perpetual graduate student who had big thoughts about everything; the gay man from the south who was so happy to go to a church that embraced him. None of us were quite sure we belonged there, I don’t think, my underemployed self with a broken-down car included. But we came, and we served, and others washed our feet, and it turned out that we were part of the community too.

And on Good Friday, we knelt in front of the cross and prayed, we lit candles, and laid flowers. I hadn’t been sure that I would find a church where it was OK that I had uncertainty and regrets and that I didn’t have it all together. But as I watched others kneel with reverence or tears, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one with sorrow or sin or need to bring to the cross that year.

And at the Easter Vigil, as we all sat closely together in the darkened back of the church, clutching candles and hearing the stories of our faith: I got it. I got that I was a part of a long line of people who were messed up and who were observing an uncertain and difficult world with fear. As we retold these stories we remembered them: they became real for us. The prayer that night says over and over to God: This is the night. This is the night when you freed our forebears from slavery, when you free us too. In our gathering and our remembering, this liberation, this grace, this great love of God becomes real for us in a new way.

And so when Easter arrived, I realized that this journey through Holy Week had changed me into a person who was more in touch with truth, hope, and the love of God than I had been before. And that yearly journey has done the same thing every year since, in different ways, especially when I try to bring the fullness of where I am, in all its messiness and sorrow and hope, to the table and to the cross.

So, it is probably my job as a priest to invite you to these “extra church services that happen before Easter.” But I’m not really interested in that. But I do invite you, as a fellow seeker, to come journey through this Holy Week, either here at Grace or another house of worship.

Come because you have sorrow and don’t know where else to take it. Come because it’s hard to find hope in the world. Come because you need a community of people who don’t have it all figured out, but are growing together. Come because life is too busy and you need to tend your soul. Come because you want to know, deeply, how much you are loved by your creator, your redeemer, your sustainer. Come because you need to find resurrection. Come even if you’re not sure you fit or that your journey makes sense. There is a place for you in this story: Just come.

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The Rev. Anne Clarke is the assistant rector at Grace Episcopal Church, 1314 Spring St. in St. Helena, where she has served with the Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga, Rector, since December. The Rev. Clarke previously served as the Life-Long Christian Formation Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. You can find her preaching at Grace monthly (including this Good Friday at noon), shepherding Grace’s children’s ministry and leading thought-provoking classes for adults, and out on the walking paths and hiking trails of the Napa Valley. She may be contacted at revanne@grace-episcopal.org. Grace’s Holy Week Services are Thursday at 6 p.m., Friday at noon, 5 p.m. (Spanish), and 7 p.m. (Taizé on Labyrinth), Saturday at 8 p.m. (bilingual Easter Vigil), and Easter Sunday at 8 and 10 a.m.

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