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Should we protect kids from Holy Week?

Should we protect kids from Holy Week?

The Rev. Rhonda Waters reflects on her experience with her son and Holy Week in the Anglican Journal:

The church where I served as student minister has a number of very large stained glass windows: Christ with the children, the women at the empty tomb, and a rather lurid depiction of Christ on the cross, featuring a great deal of purple and agony. My son was three years old while we were at this particular parish and, of course, he loved that crucifixion. As a result, we (or rather, my husband and son, as I was generally otherwise occupied at church) talked quite a lot about Christ’s death, conversations that naturally (for my husband and son, at least) became conversations about oppressive political regimes, torture, capital punishment, non-violent political action, and martyrdom. Holy Week is not for the faint of heart.

Then again, the 6 o’clock news is not for the faint of heart, either. War, terrorism, violence, corruption, discrimination, inequality—such stories make up the soundtrack in our kitchen as we prepare dinner. We have never tried to protect our son from these sad realities. Instead, we have tried to explain the stories as best as we can, working to equip him with some basic tools for understanding geography, politics, history, and ethics. And we have tried to place these stories in the context of Holy Week.

The world is not a safe place. God knew that before the Word was made flesh. Jesus knew that before his flesh was subjected to violence and death. The world is not a safe place, but the Word was still made flesh and Jesus still taught the radical good news of God’s Kingdom because the world is not a hopeless place. In fact, the world is a deeply loved and loveable place, and Holy Week invites us to confront the depth of both of these truths.

Read it all here.

What do  you think. Do you think Holy Week is too violent for kids?


Image by “Arbor Infelix” by Rubén Betanzo S. – Mi pc. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

posted by Ann Fontaine


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Karen Brown

A church I attended a while ago commissioned two stained glass windows: one the crucifixion of Christ; and the other of Abraham with Isaac on the alter, Abraham’s hand raised holding a knife with which to kill Isaac, and an angel in the process of staying Abraham’s hand. The window with Abraham and Isaac turned out to be a problem because it scared the children in the congregation. They knew that Abraham was Isaac’s father, and the picture showed a father killing his son (almost). Young children don’t have the capacity for abstract thinking that we take for granted as adults. Most children have participated in a family and understand “dad” as a real entity, but they have never seen an angel. The explanation of the Abraham/Isaac story produced more confusion than clarity. The children understood the part about God giving Abraham a straightforward instruction – kill your son – but the concept of God testing Abraham’s faith was beyond them. Some of the children asked if God was going to tell their dads to kill them. On the other hand, the children didn’t ask as many questions about the crucifixion window, probably because it contained only an adult, and no child with which they could identify. Age and cognitive development are crucial factors to consider when introducing children to Holy Week, or any other stories that contain violence. I believe young children should not be saturated with the daily TV news of violent current events. Children discover soon enough that the world is not a safe place, but during those crucial early developmental years, they should feel as safe as possible with their family in their home, and in their church.

Bill Carroll

Unlike the violence they will definitely encounter in the schoolyard and on television and possibly even at home, the violence of Holy Week is set within the context of redemption and hope. The power of the Gospel is Christ entering the places of violence and shame, which tragically are the places we often find ourselves, and triumphing over evil precisely there in solidarity with all who suffer or are oppressed. Children need this Good News as much as anybody and connect rather well with the liturgies of the week. I agree that we need to purge all vestiges of anti-semitism from our message. I don’t think altering the biblical text is an appropriate way to do so. Suppressing or altering the reproaches and preaching against violence and scapegoating and remembring the Church’s guilt in anti-Jewish violence seems a better route. A religion with a crucified Savior ought to be able to speak powerfully about the need to stand in solidarity with all victims of persecution, including persecution carried out by professing Christians who take themselves to he acting in God’s Name.

JC Fisher

Children should absolutely be included in Holy Week liturgies (w/ the “crying babies, like plans, should be carried out” caveat ;-/).

But as far as liturgical art goes (re “a rather lurid depiction of Christ on the cross, featuring a great deal of purple and agony”): just another reason I prefer Byzantine art. In icons, even the crucifixion is portrayed in *golden light of* the Resurrection. Even as we plumb the depths of Christ’s Passion w/ children, we do so as Easter people.

Richard Edward Helmer

There are some helpful retranslations of John’s Passion for Good Friday that move away from the implication of anti-Semitism without losing the drama of the passion or its message. Here is one we use at my parish, with references to sources:

Christopher Epting

We should protect our kids from the Anti-Semitism so often a part of Holy Week rather than the violence (which in any case they live with 24/7 on TV and video games.)

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