During the summer months in our church, like so many others churches, our people attend worship less frequently. Vacations, visitors, calls from the mountains to go hiking, nice weather, or one of 1000 other things keep people out of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. In early September though, as the school year begins and our program year starts anew, more people attend worship more often.
To visibly mark this change of seasons and the regathering of our community, we have developed a ritual using our leftover dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday that we call “Re-Gathering.” Here is a description:
- Before worship begins we place a tall and empty vase on a table at the front of the sanctuary.
- We also place a vase filled with the dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday near the usher table.
- As people enter the sanctuary and get their bulletins, the ushers also offer them a dried palm.
- After our announcements and introit the worship leader/pastor acknowledges the beginning of the program year and give thanks that we are regathering as a worshiping community.
- He/she then explains that during the opening hymn, all are invited to come forward,place their dried palm into the vase and then be re-seated.
- To help orient people we print this note in the bulletin. “Re-Gathering: During the music, all are invited to bring forward a dried palm, and place it into the vase on the table, symbolizing our re-gathering as a community. The palms we are using are from Palm Sunday. Please Signal an usher if you require assistance.”
- After the hymn is over, the now full vase is moved to the altar where it will stay for about a month.
A simple and effective ritual that: 1) marks the changing season, 2) acknowledges the regathered community, and 3) through the palms, makes a theological connection between the gathered body, the cross of Christ and the empty tomb.
© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016