The readings, except for the gospel, for this Sunday are the same in all three lectionary years. Go to the links below to explore what has been posted for years A and C, then read on for additional ideas, particularly for the Year B gospels.
+ Using a royal crown and crown of thorns to explore Jesus kingship
+ A reading script for Psalm 118 that captures the feeling of the parade crowd
+ A movement script for Philippians 2 for a dancer or for the congregation
+ An answer to the child’s question “Why did they hate Jesus so much?”
+ Go to Year C - Palm - Passion Sunday to find
+ Exploring “Thine is the kingdom, the power and glory” in the Lord’s Prayer
+ Comparing Jesus to some modern day super heroes/ines
+ Telling the stories of Jesus loving people throughout Holy Week events
+ Also go to my book Sharing the Easter Faith With Children to find6
+ Commentary on each Holy Week stories from the children’s point of view
+ Essays about how children respond to the Holy Week and Easter stories at each age
+ Scripts for two Palm Sunday calls to worship led by children. One has children yelling set lines from several corners of the sanctuary. The other has a group of children at the rear of the sanctuary answering a worship leader in the front and is based on Psalm 24.
+ and more.
+ First, a word about the palms: The single strips of greenery often distributed to the congregation are not palm branches. They are at best leaves from palm branches or even sections of leaves. Children handed one of them and told to wave their palm branches are puzzled. For good reason, they cannot imagine people waving such a thing to welcome Jesus. So, to help them join the crowd on Palm Sunday provide them with real palm branches. (They can be ordered from the same distributors at not that much greater a price.)
+ When you order palms consider ordering from Eco-Palms at Ecopalms.org. Eco-Palms are harvested in a sustainable manner and workers are paid a fair wage. Many denominations endorse them and your green-conscious children will be pleased!
+ Especially if you are featuring different crosses during Lent, today’s cross is the palm cross. Go to King of Peace Resources and scroll down to "How to Make Palm Crosses"
I heard about one worship leader who walked the whole congregation through making palm crosses of their own during the worship service, projecting the step by step photographs. Worshipers were urged to take their crosses home to post on the refrigerator, a bathroom mirror, or some other visible spot where it can dry during the year. (When I walked my lectionary study group through the same process, they all felt it was way too complicated to attempt during worship. So, try it on your own before you try it with the congregation.)
Or, save Palm Sunday crosses made today to make ashes for next Ash Wednesday. Next Ash Wednesday burn the crosses then crush them in a small bowl with a pestle and mixed the ashes with a little oil for use at the imposition of ashes. The worship leader who described this suggested that the majority of the ashes be prepared before the service, setting aside a few to be crushed during the service while the significance of ashes made from last Palm Sunday’s palms is explained. It would also be possible to prepare the ashes with an older children’s class during the church school hour to both teach them about the ashes and encourage their attendance on Ash Wednesday. (Warning: ashes mixed with water may form lye which will burn the skin. So, mix ashes with olive or any other kitchen oil.)
+ Palm Sunday processionals at the beginning of worship are a tradition in many congregations. Often children lead or follow the choir/s waving palm branches. Adults love these parades. As children age, they can become uncomfortable and feel “on display” in them. For them, the best parades are those that include worshipers of all ages mixed together. It is possible for the entire congregation to begin worship outside or in “the hall” and then process into the sanctuary together. When they process as a group, older children appreciate having a stylized way of carrying their palm branch such as help across their chest and pointed up toward their shoulder. Or, try the idea below that was left as a comment by “Allison in Pennsylvania” last year….
“My church has “always done” a Palm Sunday parade with the kids during the first hymn which is usually, “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna, the Little Children Sang” (which I think the adults like better than the kids.)
So to liven things up, last year I made sure that the inside and outside aisle seats had palms (since not everyone takes a palm on their way in). And I put the robes we use at Christmas on the inside aisle too. As the kids did a circuit around the outside of the sanctuary, people waved their palms at them as they went by and they waved back (minor sword fighting ensued, but they were moving so it didn’t last long).
As the kids prepared to come down the middle aisle, the grown-ups sitting on the end threw down the robes to cover the aisle and threw down the palm branches too. It ended up being much more dramatic than usual, which I count as a blessing! :0) This year, I may not do it during the hymn but rather as part of reading the Scripture… so people can watch what is going on instead of burying their faces in the hymnal!”
+ If you are more focused on Passion Sunday and do not plan to use nail crosses on Good Friday, feature nail crosses today. Use one to introduce the Passion readings. Point out why these crosses are made with nails. Speak briefly of how terrible the stories that we will hear this morning are. There is a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of very real, very bad pain. Admit that it is hard to listen to the stories. But, insist that they are important stories to hear. Finally, promise that Jesus’ story does not end where we stop reading today. The very best story won’t be read until next Sunday. We have to wait for it. But, we know it is coming. That helps us live with the sad stories this week.
+ Vocabulary Heads-Up for those Observing Passion Sunday: for children passion is kissy, icky, mushy stuff. Few have even claimed passion as an intense enthusiasm, as in “she has a passion for the cello.” So, it is probably best to simply introduce “Passion with a capital P” as the title given to the stories Jesus betrayal, trials, and crucifixion.
+ If you have been following Jesus around the sanctuary during Lent, there are several possibilities for today:
Have an acolyte or other person hold him high to carry him in at the head of the palm processional and set him in place at the front. Others in the processional lay their palm branches around him.
If you use props for a reading of the Passion Sunday text from Mark, stand “Jesus” in a very visible spot and add the props around him as you read.
If you are so into Passion Sunday that there will be a large rough cross at the front of the sanctuary, stand Jesus beside that cross. Gather children there to tell some of the Holy Week stories illustrating with pictures from the week. (See the source for such pictures in the Mark section below.)
+ The covenant theme that follows the Old Testament readings for Lent this year, could be carried through today. God’s ultimate covenant is the promise of forgiveness for us and our response of accepting that forgiveness and at least trying to forgive others. That is however hard for children to grasp. So, it may be best to leave the covenant theme and focus on the details of the stories for this day.
The Palm - Passion Gospel Texts
+ In Mark’s gospel there is no mention of the parade involving children. It was an adult inspired and led event. I’m sure children got into the act, but they were joining the adults. That is more reason to make palm processionals intergenerational. Gather as many of the congregation as are willing in the hall or some other convenient place for the call to worship. Then process into the sanctuary together waving palms and singing. When they participate with their parents and leaders of the church, children know that this is one very important parade. To keep the music going strong choose a short familiar chorus (“Prepare the Way of the Lord!” or “The King of Glory Comes, the Nation Rejoices”) that worshippers can sing repeatedly rather than a Palm Sunday hymn whose words they probably do not know by heart and thus cannot sing as they walk up the aisle with their palm branch.
+ Speaking of Palm Sunday hymns: there are not many of them and they are sung only one Sunday a year. They lack the easy to join in on “alleluia” choruses of the Easter hymns and their language is difficult for children. Unless the children learn them in choir, I would not expect children to sing them in worship with much enthusiasm. There are clearer ways to rehearse the story with them.
+ If you will be reading the Passion using a variety of readers, choose an older child to read the Palm Sunday story from either Mark or John.
+ John’s account has no children and barely mentions the donkey. John is clearly focused on what kind of king Jesus is. To check out the directions scroll down to this crown picture in Year A - Palm - Passion Sunday for using two crowns to talk about John’s points.
Mark 14:1- 15:47 or 15: 1-39 (40-47)
|JESUS MAFA. Jesus drives out the merchants, from Art in the Christian Tradition,|
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48271 [retrieved January 29, 2015]
+ Illustrate Palm/Passion gospels with pictures from the collection of African paintings of the life of Jesus available through Vanderbilt Divinity School Library. Go to Vanderbilt Divinity Library Art Collection then enter MAFA in the search box to get to 65 pictures from the life of Christ. (These can be downloaded free for non-commercial use with attribution.)
Select pictures that your congregation will easily recognize from the whole life of Jesus to project without comment throughout the worship service.
Select pictures from Holy Week to project as you read the gospel.
Print pictures from Holy Week in order on long sheets of paper (scrolls?) or in a small booklets for each worshiper to follow as the gospel is read.
Use pictures from the life of Jesus to have the conversation with children about why people hated Jesus enough to kill him. Go to Year A - Palm Passion Sunday and scroll down to the question for details on the conversation.
+ Many congregations devote the sermon time this day to reading the entire Passion story. For worshipers who know the stories well, it is a powerful review. But those of any age who are less familiar with the stories find it very long and tend to tune out. Help them stay tuned in by breaking it up, using a variety of readers and adding little movement. Add a visual element by moving related props around the sanctuary as the stories are read. The readers, acolytes, or members of a youth class could place the props. Though children are capable of carrying the props, many adults would be uncomfortable seeing children carry many of these particular props. The children benefit from watching the props and hearing the stories.
Choose the readers carefully and hold a group rehearsal so all are comfortable with their assignments.
Reader 1 – older male to read about the religious leaders’ effort to get rid of Jesus
Reader 2 – woman or older teenage girl to read about Mary of Bethany
Reader 3 – excellent, dramatic reader to read the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane stories
Reader 4 – young adult male to read about Peter
Reader 5 – older man to read about Pilate
Readers 6 and 7 – older teenage males to read the crucifixion as soldiers
Reader 8 – woman to read about women at the cross
Reader 9 –young adult male to read about Joseph of Arimathea
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Mark 14:1 – 15:47 Readers Script
Reader 1 sits near and reads from a lectern or music stand on one side of the sanctuary. Readers 2, 3, 4 and 8 sit near and read in turn from a lectern or music stand on the other side of the sanctuary. Readers 5, 6, and 7 enter from the rear of the sanctuary and leave after their scene. Reader 8 is seated in the congregation near the front where he can easily get out and come to the front to read. Acolytes or prop carriers come up the central aisle bearing their props, then leave by the side aisle.
Reader 1: It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
Reader 2: (Acolyte carries a burning scented candle up the central aisle leaving it on the Table OR, if incense is part of your tradition, acolyte comes up central aisle swinging the censer and leaves as the story is read.) While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Reader 1: Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. (Acolyte drops a bag of money on the Table)
Reader 3: (Acolyte brings in a loaf and chalice to set on the Table OR appropriate worship leaders set the Table for the Sacrament later in the service) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Reader 4: When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. (Acolyte places a large rooster statue – maybe pottery, a piñata, or a colorful small banner on a stand - near the front)
Reader 3: They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Reader 1: (Acolyte brings in a sword or club, shows it to the congregation and leans it against the Table.) Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled.
Reader 4: Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
Reader 1: Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and
‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power,’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. (Acolyte carries wooden gavel to the Table and bangs on it like a judge pronouncing sentence) Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
Reader 4: While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Acolyte carries the rooster out the central aisle.)
Once the rooster is out, Readers 5, 6, and 7 march together up the central aisle. Reader 5 turns to face the congregation at the center of the front. Readers 6 and7 stand to either side of him with authority. All carry black folders from which they read.
Reader 5 : As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. (Pilate readers walks out the central aisle.)
Reader 6: (Acolyte carries a crown of thorns up the central aisle holding it high, then places it on the Table.) Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Reader 7: They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Reader 6: Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
Reader 7: It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
Reader 6: And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
Reader 7: When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Reader 8: (Standing at the lectern) There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Reader 9: (Coming up from the congregation to stand where Pilate reader stood) When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
Depending on what happens next in worship all readers exit and props are removed or readers exit but the props remain in place.
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+ Peter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin Jr., has Peter telling his experiences from the Last Supper through Jesus forgiveness at the fish fry on the beach. Older boys especially appreciate his straight-forward, strong but emotional account of what happened. The art depicts Peter and Jesus as strong believable men. The book is too long to read in its entirety, but a single story could be read from this book at children’s time during a service with a sermon rather than reading of The Passion.
Don’t Forget to Peek Ahead to the Easter Surprise
+ Adult worshipers know that Easter follows this horrible story. But, children, especially younger children may not. Even if they have heard the Easter story, they may not place it after the Passion. Older children who may be tuning into this reading of the full Passion story for the first time, often respond strongly. So, it is important to end with a reminder that God has a wonderful surprise waiting. If you buried the Alleluia in a box, bring out the box, refer to what is in it, and invite the children to come next week to celebrate God’s wonderful surprise ending. It can be worth the effort to call the children up front briefly to be sure they hear this promise of a better ending.
Looking Ahead to Holy Week
+ As you make announcements about Holy Week services and if you really do want children to attend them, tell them and their parents so very directly. Give them a hint about one thing that will be particularly interesting or important for the children as well as for the adults. For example, “On Thursday evening we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the night Jesus invented it. We will hear the story of how it came to be. This is a night for children and parents and grandparents, for kids and teenagers and adults, for all Christians who love and follow Jesus.” Or, go to LINK Passports for a way to help children and their families track their progress through Holy Week.
+ Many children and their families find Lent just too long to follow. They are just now tuning in. To help them make Holy Week into a Jesus Week in their homes check out Celebrating Jesus Week.
+ Challenge households to read part of Luke’s story of the events of Holy Week each day this week. Provide a bookmark/card with readings either from Mark’s gospel or from the Children of God Storybook Bible. It would even be possible to print one list on each side of the same bookmark with some Holy Week graphics.
The Holy Week Stories
from Mark’s Gospel
Sunday Mark 11:15-19 Jesus Attacks in the Temple
Monday Mark 12:28-34 The Greatest Command
Tuesday Mark 14:12-25 The Last Supper
Wednesday Mark 14:43-50 Jesus is Arrested
Thursday Mark 15:1-15 Pilate condemns Jesus
Friday Mark 15:21-39 Jesus is Crucified
Saturday Mark 15:42-47 Jesus’ Body is Buried
Easter Mark 16:1-8 The Tomb is Empty
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Holy Week Stories from
Children of God Storybook Bible
Palm Sunday: “An Angel Appears to Mary”
What kind of king were they expecting?
Monday: “The Law of Love”
Tuesday: “A Woman’s Love for Jesus”
Wednesday: “Jesus Becomes A Servant?”
Maundy Thursday: “Jesus Shares His Last Meal with his Friends”
Good Friday: “The Trial and Death of Jesus”
Saturday: “The Trial and Death of Jesus” again
Because nobody could believe what happened
Easter: “Jesus Is Alive!”
+ If it is spring break in public schools and many families will be traveling and so miss Holy Week services, encourage them to take their bookmarks with them and to take a picture of themselves reading the Bible together at the beach, in the mountains, in their den at home, or wherever they spend Holy Week. Post their photographs on a bulletin board titled something like “First Church families read THE STORY during Holy Week.” This is one way to resource families to do home worship and to encourage them to pay some attention to the Holy Week story even if they do not come to the church during the week.