It is Easter Sunday evening, and I am feeling completely out of sorts. Holy Week has come and gone with very little reflection or celebration. My housemate and I had a conversation this morning about how frustrated we were with the English fellowship sunrise service and how it just hadn’t been a focused or worshipful time at all. And that was the only Holy Week service I’ve attended.
I love Holy Week. It is truly my favorite time of year. Actually I love all of Lent, the time leading up to Holy Week. I appreciate the time of reflection and focus and anticipation leading up to the week that defines Christian faith.
Of course the Protestant churches here do not recognize Ash Wednesday or Lent. To do so would be to associate themselves too much with the Catholic Church. Fair enough. Many Protestant churches in the US and UK also do nothing for Lent. But I did nothing either. I gave nothing up because honestly there is little to give up here. However, I also did little to reflect in other ways.
Then Holy Week was suddenly upon us. Last weekend I was in Maputo, and by my own fault and misunderstanding, I missed going to a Palm Sunday service. At least I had Good Friday and Easter Sunday to look forward to.
On Thursday morning I asked a colleague, who is one of the leaders at the Mozambican church I attend, what special services there would be for Good Friday. He kind of laughed and said that the pastor had been confused about dates so nothing was planned. “And anything special for Easter Sunday?” I asked. “Just the regular service,” he replied. “But perhaps we will share communion together.”
What they did have planned was a “youth anniversary” (don’t ask me what that is) celebration on Saturday morning, which consisted of a 2+ hour service and a lunch. So apparently my church celebrates its youth anniversary but not the death and resurrection or our Lord Jesus Christ! Regardless of my personal issues about planning, Saturday was a blast. Youth—defined in Mozambique as 18- to 35-year-olds—from six different churches packed out the tiny, rickety church to sing, dance, and pray together. The service was also partly a birthday celebration for my Portuguese language partner who surprised me by inviting me up to the front of church to cut the cake and share the celebration with her since it had been my birthday recently.
Meanwhile my housemate was at a cook-off at her church all afternoon, and I wondered if indeed any churches were acknowledging Easter. In fact, several were, I heard. Apparently, just not the ones I’m associated with. (An interesting note: My housemate’s church did have a Good Friday service, but she said they were singing praise songs and wishing each other Happy Easter.) At least I had the English fellowship Easter sunrise service to look forward to.
We were on the beach this morning at 5:30 (wearing sweaters in fact!), and by 6:00 we were done after singing some dull songs and listening to a couple poems. That was it?! That was my Easter celebration?! What about a time of reflection, especially sitting facing the sea and watching a beautiful sunrise? What about a time of thanksgiving for what Jesus’ resurrection means? What about some rousing music celebrating the risen Lord?
During the conversation later this morning with my housemate, she captured exactly how I’ve been feeling this whole week as she said in frustration, “I want to be part of this Easter thing that seems to be going on around me! How do I get in on that?”
P.S. I found out that my Mozambican church did indeed have a Good Friday service in the end. I’m not really sure what it consisted of though.