This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and at high mass we have our neighborhood procession weather permitting. For many year's St. Mark's has processed throughout the neighborhood on Palm Sunday, using a variety of different routes. When I came to St. Mark's, the procession went around the church property. As our size has increased, that route became problematic due to the narrowness of the sidewalks, especially behind the preschool and along the rectory. For the past couple of years we have stayed on Kapahulu Avenue, for even though the sidewalk is the same size in some places, there is more green space along the sidewalk for people to walk. One year we made our way up to Starbucks, and another year we made our way down to Rainbow Drive-In. My hunch is that the route to Rainbow Drive-In is a bit safer, for we do not have to cross as many streets. The biggest challenge is crossing Kapahulu Avenue, but it is worth it, for it does make a spectacle when all the traffic must stop for our palm parade. All those palms, some of which are quite large with many fronds, being led by the thurifer, cross, torches, and banner, along with our Passion vestments and the congregation, is quite the curious sight. (Some would say St. Mark's is already a curious sight!) This year the choir will also be vested in their cassocks and surplices, something they did not have last year.
When you come on Sunday for high mass, we will start from the garden. There we shall hear the Palm Sunday Gospel according to St. Matthew, the palms will be blessed with holy water, and we will begin our journey. If you cannot walk the journey, you are welcome to join us in the garden, and then wait for us until we return to the church. Perhaps you can meet us at the front doors when we return, and then enter the church with the rest of us. As we walk along Kapahulu Avenue, various songs will be sung, including "All glory, laud, and honor," however, you will notice a change. We are going to sing this popular Palm Sunday hymn in 6/8. Musicians will know what this means. As good as our music is at St. Mark's, and as popular as this hymn is, it lacks energy during the procession. Bishop Fitzpatrick recently provided liturgy suggestions for Holy Week, and this meter change of the popular Palm Sunday hymn was one of the suggestions. We will try it out and see if it gives this beloved hymn the boost needed. After the station at the front doors when we enter the church, we are going to sing the Hymnal 1982's version of "Ride on! ride on in majesty." This will be a new tune for some of you. It is a wonderfully regal tune for this particular text, and we are fortunate to have the musicians to execute it well.
We need people to take photos during the procession. Take selfies with your palms and fellow parishioners. Take photos of the procession. If you are willing, please share them with us at the church so that we can use them in the future. Sharing these photos on social media can be a form of mission. So often we only hear about the church being reactionary and negative in our society. When you share these photos with others, you show your non-church friends a positive image of Christians in our world.
Ultimately our Palm Sunday procession is mission to our neighborhood. Many times I have heard people say, "I did not know there was a church on Kapahulu Avenue." Doing the procession on Palm Sunday in the neighborhood makes us more visible. It is heartwarming when people in cars and trucks wave and smile at us, some even honking their horns in support. Everyone is invited to carry extra palms to hand out to those on the street. The Palm Sunday Procession allows us to make a public witness together in our neighborhood.
As I write this, the tree trimmers are here. I have asked them to save us some palms. On Saturday at the work morning, some of you have volunteered to make the palm crosses. We will have palms for everyone, fresh from our garden, but if you have palms from your home gardens, you are invited to bring them for the blessing and the procession. Finally, let us remember the reason for the palms. We are celebrating the entry of Jesus as our King into Jerusalem. Jesus is the big event - not the palms. The palms point to Jesus, the procession invites people to experience Jesus, and everything that we do as a church, is always about the goodness of Jesus.
Father Paul Lillie+