Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Do You See in the Sanctuary During Lent?

The Ash Wednesday Table of Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church
is signed with crosses by worshipers of all ages.
During Advent there is the Advent wreath, maybe a crèche or Chrismon tree, often special banners, and then the greenery and poinsettias.  There is a lot to see.  Worshipers of all ages respond deeply to all those visuals.  We use them to tell children the stories of Advent and Christmas and teach them the meaning of the season.

So, the question as Lent – Easter approaches is what in the sanctuary calls attention to the season and helps interpret it?  Too often it is just the unmentioned purple paraments during Lent followed by and an explosion of lilies on Easter Sunday.  What else could you add to draw young worshipers into the seasons?

Make a big deal of hanging new paraments for Lent.  Explain the change in colors and any symbols in the hangings.  Hang all those that can be easily reached in the presence of the congregation as worship begins the first Sunday of Lent. 

If you do not have any banners or hangings for Lent and Easter commission them.  This could involve a paid artist or a team of stitchers in the congregation.  A very young church that worships in its one big room hangs a series of panels of purple fabric.  They go from deepest purple at the outside to bright white at the center.  One panel is added each week.

Drape worshipers with purple stoles every Sunday in Lent.  Begin the season explaining the meaning of the stoles worship leaders wear.  Point out that Lent is not something just the worship leaders do.  All worshipers “keep Lent.”  Pass out stoles for them to wear that day.  Collect them as worshipers leave the sanctuary and pass them out as they enter the next week.  These stoles could be wide cloth ribbons or simply crepe paper streamers.  Enlist the help of a class of older children to draw a cross on each end of each stole. And of course, this leads to the possibility of white satiny stoles for Easter Sunday!

Recycle a Christmas tree to link baby Jesus to the risen Christ. 

Strip the branches for the tree to form a cross.  This cross can be displayed in the sanctuary draped with purple throughout Lent.  On Good Friday it is draped in black.  On Easter it is wrapped in chicken wire into which worshipers of all ages tuck flowers brought from home.  (Telling children where the wood for this cross came from is a good thing to do.  But, inviting them to view the process gives it much greater power.)

Cut the trunk of the tree into two lengths.  Notch them so that they fit together to form a cross that lies flat on the table.  On this cross mount a purple candle for each Sunday of Lent.  Begin worship lighting candles as you lit the candles of the Advent wreath.

Feature a prop connected to the main text for each week.  This prop may be displayed by itself in a prominent place.  Or, a table draped in purple may hold all the props for the season as they are added.  Refer to the prop directly during the service explaining why it is there.  This could be done in a children’s time or at different times each week as deemed appropriate.  Below is a list of prop series for each year of the RCL.  I suspect they could be adapted to other texts.

For Year A collect symbols or props related to the gospel story for each week.   See Observing Lent and Easter in Year A for the list.

For Year B display a growing collection of crosses related to the gospel stories or follow a large Jesus figure around the sanctuary reading the gospel stories from wherever Jesus is that week.  See Observing Lent and Easter in Year B.

For Year C explore the sacrificial love of the texts by adding a heart related to that week's texts to a seasonal display.  See Observing Lent and Easter in Year C for an overview.. 

If you bury an “Alleluia!” banner for lent, leave the box you put it in in full view in the worship area for all of Lent.  Some put it under the Table.

What can you add?  How can we make Lent and Easter visible in our worship spaces?


  1. Some helpful ideas, thanks. We've done the object for each week, but it gets convoluted, so I like the simplicity of other ideas.


Click on Comments below to leave a message or share an idea