My wife and I spent the Easter weekend in Amsterdam with the Ouderzijds 100 community, a 50+ year old community of believers who live in the heart of the red-light district in 4 houses built in the early 1700s.
TASTE: Their Easter celebration began on Thursday night where we joined in the meal which included a Seder salad, composed of the elements that make up the Seder meal and a wonderful spicy lamb roast. Taste also plays a role later in the communion.
TOUCH: After the meal we experienced a simple foot-washing ceremony. There is something special about physically touching and caressing the FEET of someone else.
SIGHT: It is common in many churches to use colorful fabric to highlight the various days of Holy Week: red, purple and white. For this particular weekend I added a labyrinth to the chapel for Saturday which added to the sight element.
SOUND: the hymns, the choirs, the instruments, the scriptures, the refrains….but also the lack of sound – silence, mainly practiced on Saturday. But for me this past weekend the most memorable moment was one of sound: after the early Sunday morning service, we transitioned from within the chapel to the streets of the red-light district while singing. Then we screamed as loud as we could several times the ancient Easter refrain “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed”
SMELL: I suppose I should include the foot-washing service here as well, but traditionally churches have used incense to create the smell element, but I would also include the smell of food cooking. This particular Easter weekend added a different smell dimension, however. My Dutch friend, Willemijn gave us a tour of the stations of the cross that some of her artist friends had created out in a neighborhood in the west of Amsterdam. What touched me most was the station that deals with Simon carrying Jesus’ cross. An artist had the brilliant idea of putting his installation inside the lids of the fixed garbage bins along as certain boulevard. He placed a variety of pictures of people carrying another person.
However, I say all of this to make a point. Our traditions have sensory expressions of our faith because WE NEED our faith to touch us in our senses. And if that is true, why not include more “sensuality” in our everyday faith? How can we infuse our personal spiritual moments with more color and sound and taste and touch and smell? That’s my challenge to you. I need to be inspired by your ideas!