A hands-on Easter

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Have you ever made an Easter Garden?

I’ve been surprised this year by just how many people I have met who haven’t.

Easter Gardens, made in a box or bowl, tray or plant pot, are a big part of my memories of Easter from childhood.

I remember collecting all sorts of bits; moss, feathers, daisies, buttercups, even pebbles if you looked hard enough, saved lolly sticks, twigs and a bit of begged for soil from the flower beds. I remember concentrating hard trying to recreate the details of the story; the empty cross on a ‘hill’, the empty tomb (usually a saved pot of some sort) with its large stone near by, the path the women walk on to reach the tomb. Sometimes we drew angels to stand in the entrance of the tomb, sometimes we found a scrap of fabric to lay out carefully on a stone in there. Once made, and made filled with bright daisies & buttercups (& of course often pictures of butterflies carefully drawn, cut out and stuck to twigs) they would be watered (though I remember them not lasting long!), and often put on the dining room table for everyone to see.

I remember the process being poignant on Easter Saturday; a nothing kind of day, a waiting day, a quiet, not sure what (I’m allowed) to do kind of day – reverent and kind of dutiful, with a hint of guilt if I found myself having forgotten the heavy sadness of Good Friday. Making the garden felt appropriate somehow, guilt free busyness of course, but more than that, it seemed to enable my hands and my heart to tend to Jesus, or attend to the story even though it seemed to have paused for longer than I could hold my breath; or perhaps both without me being able to fully grasp that all that was going on within me as I busily concentrated on each little detail. In our family getting hands busy really makes a difference to how we talk about things together, how we concentrate on the same thing at the same time, how we are able to find ways of relating to concepts and retold events that happened in a different time and place.

To make an Easter Garden:

  • sticks or twigs or lolly sticks
  • string
  • a bit of soil
  • small stones, or gravel
  • moss
  • cress seed or seeds of other flowers if you have patience to wait & water.
  • a larger stone
  • a pot (small plant pot or saved yoghurt pot)
  • paper, pens, tape or glue
  • daisies, buttercups, small clippings from a bush or tree with buds on (if allowed!) or even perhaps some small seedling plants.
  • anything else you see that could decorate it, like feathers or ribbons, or shiny things
  • memory, careful fingers, imagination
  • an openness to become a part of the story (Yes T, it was real & yes T this garden we are making is just pretend…), and let it somehow become a part of you.

We had a hands-on reflective time together as a church on Good Friday. To let us listen to the different people who were there on the first Good Friday, each part of the building invited us into an activity to explore the words and reactions of those who were there, so we could ask the questions of ourselves too – would I have reacted this way too? How am I responding to Jesus today?

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There was soaking music with a rough cross in the centre and sand to draw and write in – ‘Jesus remember me, when you come into your Kingdom’ ; a hidden den – ‘The disciples fled and hid’; a mobile of tears to make – John and Mary stood at the foot of the cross, are our tears of sadness, guilt, love, shame, regret, fear?; dressing up – Simon of Cyrene didn’t know he would get caught up in that day, how will we get drawn into what is going on today?; writing/drawing/discussion area – what tempted Peter & Judas to deny and betray, what tempts us? – ‘will you betray me with a kiss?’; and a place to gather at the cross, to read the story again, or simply to look on the crown of thorns, the clothes being gambled for – ‘if he was the messiah, he would save himself’, ‘surely this man was the Son of God’; Easter Gardens to make and take home – Joseph tends to Jesus’ body, a secret believer taking a leap of faith perhaps regretting how late his courage came, wondering at the events of the day, and unable to see a different end to the story.

One of the things I love about reflection times like that is watching how the children step in to help older ones in some activities, and in other moments older ones help the young ones. Everyone brings something to share, and each is valid. And in sharing activities alongside each other we see things we never could see on our own, and often those new insights are ones that shape us & nurture us.

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Easter Sunday began in a rather stressful way to tell the truth, we were going to travel to my sister’s to meet up with my family for our celebration dinner straight after the services. Last minute packing (because that’s always a trigger for stress for B so it wasn’t done the night before) and the stress and pressure of a change from the usual routine meant that for half an hour or so it really did look as though we might not even make it to church! We arrived with seconds to spare, found seats and had to turn things around with B & T (both grumpy & on edge) quickly knowing we were helping with part of the service later on.

Andrew had asked us to help during communion as a whole family (I have to admit that’s a daunting prospect knowing things can be a bit unpredictable with us!). I was offering the cup, and there were chocolate buttons for everyone too so B, A, & T followed behind the cups offering them. It was actually great, despite it being quite hard work manoeuvring everything & everyone in the space. I could see that the kids felt it was a real honour to be able to help and thankfully they rose to the occasion – as they almost always do! I hope the different perspective it will have given them of the celebration will help them as they grow in faith… it certainly helps me to have done it together with them; I saw things through their eyes, their excitement and wonder…for them nothing about it was mundane or ‘everyday’, they sensed it’s specialness and enjoyed being part of the feast!

Time celebrating with family who also share faith, and the joy of Easter was lovely. Lots of fun, games, indoor Easter egg hunt (terribly cold, wet weather), lots of good food, conversations and laughter. (& a little sleep!)

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