Palm Sunday Hospitality with 10- and 11-Year-Olds
We were marching on Palm Sunday, 2019, along our neighborhood side streets, greeting and handing out palms to lots of unchurched neighbors.
Pausing midblock, two of the children who were marching and drumming while also managing to hand out palms—quite tricky but they had a great sharing system—were reassuring a young couple preparing for a long Sunday bike ride, who wanted to know if it was okay to take the palms our kids had just given them. Our kids—10- to 11-year-olds—told the couple it would be “very cool” to take the palms on the bike trip, but the young woman wasn’t sure. Nervously, without being asked, she offered, “I used to be Catholic” and that her fiancé was “Jewish but not really anymore” and it was her “job to find a worshipping community they could both share and that hadn’t happened yet, so we haven’t ever been to your church!”
Our kids swung into action in a way that was quite breathtaking both organizationally and theologically.
They looked at each other for a few seconds, then both nodded in agreement: some silent communication they both clearly understood. One child handed off to the other his smallish drum and fistful of palms. The other child swiftly made room in his own collection of palms and two smaller drums while also managing to free a hand to raise the cover flap on one of the bicycle bags. His colleague then deftly arranged the couple’s palms, securing one end of the cluster into the bag and adjusting the outer portion, reassuring the couple that, when in motion, the palms “will make a really cool flare as you ride by!”
The young couple were delighted yet still concerned about this really being okay. I’d deliberately tried to fade into the background, but they turned to me over the heads of the two eager boys.
I nodded and reassured them it was fine. “But we’re going for a bike ride with your palms! We’re not going to your church.” One of our kids said, “That’s okay. You can come tonight at 6. There’s really cool music and drumming at 6 and you can get more palms in case you give yours away on your trip . . .”
The couple were delighted and speechless, still looking to me for reassurance. I told them they were welcome on all counts—to take the palms on their ride, to come to any of our services, and that our 6 p.m. is a very informal service especially for people from different as well as no particular religious backgrounds who might be looking for a welcoming community.
Just as the march began to resume, one of our kids said to the young woman, “It doesn’t matter if you used to be Catholic. We have a lot of Catholic people at our church. My aunt says our church sponges up all her bad Catholic memories and gives her a whole bunch of good new ones … and she also says if you’re Catholic then you were probably baptized so you belong to God whatever you call yourself . . .”
The other boy turned to the fiancé and said, “And don’t worry about being Jewish at our church. Jesus was Jewish and he’s all over our church . . . so it’s very cool to be Jewish at our church.”
As our section of the block resumed drumming and marching, our kids redistributed their instruments and palms and, with great joy as they began to drum, one of them turned back to the still astonished couple and called out, “Have a great ride and hope we see you tonight at 6. There’s great snacks after!”