Saturday, March 22, 2008

an Easter Conundrum

As a former pastor and church planter, there has been very little choice in where to spend Easter Sunday. On very few occasions has the decision not been made for me.

While in seminary I remember a group of friends gathering at the botanical gardens in Fort Worth for a day long picnic. We decided to let our seats be taken by some C&E Christians and spend a beautiful day outside. It was one of the best Easters I had experienced.

While on staff at a church in Richmond, the decision was usually made by necessity, until my wife became a school teacher. With no children and only 1 week in which we could vacation (spring break-the week after Easter), I took the unprecedented Day Off on Easter Sunday my final 2 years. I had reminded the staff that we canceled Sunday School on Easter Sunday for the extra worship service. Plus, all youth events were canceled and I played no part in the traditional worship service (besides an invocation).

It was fun to be out of church on Easter. The first year we attended a friend's service in Miami on our way to Key West. The second year of rebellion was spent in San Juan, PR. We thought about attending mass, but knew no Spanish and liked the excuse. We spent the day roaming Old San Juan.

After leaving our last position, we attended Easter services in the megachurch Buckhead campus of Northpoint in Atlanta with some friends. The next year is fuzzy. We had not yet found a congregation we liked. I think we attended the service of this incredibly shallow "church" that has been in the news lately for its commitment to sex. Hopefully they spoke about the resurrection, but only if they could make it sound "cool."

We are now in that conundrum I spoke of in the title. We now longer attend the congregation we attended the past few Easter Sundays and I am no longer in an interim staff position. So, without a congregation we regularly attend, what do we do?

Do we skip the most important celebration of the church year, at a time when our kids are learning important lessons regarding Jesus, God and church? Do we pull up a random church out of the phone book and attend in our neighborhood? Do we attend the church I used to work at on a day when C&E Christians make the parking lot and nursery unnavigable? Do we attend the church a friend invited us to, with its special service for children, a church that swells to 3X its regular size on Easter?

The problem with both of these churches is their extremely traditional and wealthy environments, where children and parents are decked out in brand new outfits, each showing off their bonnets and handbags. This type of culture is one of those things that led us to church planting in the first place. To turn a day in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour into a fashion show accentuates everything I stand against. Plus, I do not feel like spending money we do not have to spare on outfits so our children do not feel like outcasts.

Hopefully we will have a decision by tomorrow morning.


Steve K. said...


I can identify with the conundrum you describe. Our family has been "post-church" (for lack of a better term) for about 10 months now, which means we'll be spending Easter Sunday at home. I plan to read the Easter story with my kids again (we read it on Good Friday also), and then we'll have family coming over for a big mealtime celebration. Hopefully they'll know that Easter is a special time -- not just because of Easter bunnies and chocolate candy (although they're partaking in some of that too).

As Eugene Peterson writes, it's "a long obedience in the same direction." That's the Christian faith I want to hand down to my children anyway. Although the temptation is strong to take them to a "traditional" Easter service somewhere, the conviction to not become an "Easter and Christmas" (i.e., nominal) Christian keeps me from giving into that. We may not be going somewhere on Sunday mornings, but we haven't "given up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing" either.

I encourage you to resist Churchianity and do something organic and creative with your family this Easter. I don't think you'll regret it.

mycotn said...

I'm too late to offer an opinion (not that I have one), so what did you do? If nothing else, I really like the idea that Steve K. mentioned about reading the Easter story together as a family. Kim and I read it with our kids yesterday morning, and we're hoping to make it a new tradition. I'm a little ashamed that I've been all about reading the Christmas story as a family on Christmas morning since day one, but we're just now getting to reading the Easter story together. Anyway, I hope you're happy with how you and your family celebrated Easter.

DJ Word said...

thanks to both of you for the encouragement.

we stayed home and read the Easter story. We had been reading since Thursday the stories leading up to the Resurrection in a wonderful Kid's bible Gillian has (of course, she had read them herself in advance of each reading).

We then ate a wonderful brunch with my parents.

However, it is still weird to be disconnected from a worship boy for us and how we operate. Maybe next year we will be involved.

Gillian came home Monday from school and asked why we did not go to church.

I guess kids (public school) had been talking about going to church on Easter.