I won’t mention any names, but that exact phrase was uttered last Sunday by a staff member, in reference to Holy Week this week.
You thought maybe we were a wild college frat, hosting a frighteningly ridiculous pledge event? Nope. We’re Lutherans.
“Hell Week” is probably a fairly accurate term for those of us who are working behind the scenes to prepare for one of the biggest and busiest holidays of the year. For those of you who don’t speak Churchenese, “Holy Week” refers to the week leading up to Jesus’ death, and involves 10 action-packed services in one week for us here at the church where I work.
I didn’t grow up with any family members who worked in churches, so I didn’t ever realize how stressful holidays are when you’re a church worker. But suffice it to say that the squishy toys one of my dear coworkers keeps stockpiled in his desk have been chucked my direction plenty of times in the last few weeks.
I can’t throw anything back at him, because his computer is a lovely MacBook Pro and didn’t come out of the sale bin at Computers R’ Us like mine did. Besides, the Bible tells me to “turn the other cheek”–so I “turn the other cheek” and duck under my desk when the missiles start flying.
I count myself lucky, that I’m only going to be spending every single day this week at church, and that I only have to be here for 3 of those nights. My other coworkers and all of our hardworking choir, band, and media team members can’t say the same thing.
How do you, as an ordinary member of the public, know when Easter is right around the corner? Here are some tell-tale signs you might spot in your church staff:
1) You see your worship leader’s car in the parking lot for approximately 12-15 hours a day–but you never actually see him. You’re fairly sure he’s in the worship center, even though you haven’t seen him for days…either that or there’s a friendly spirit lurking around in the worship center, singing praise songs and practicing guitar chords.
2) Oh, you wanted to use the copier? Ha! Thanks for giving us a hearty chuckle–you couldn’t have actually thought we’d stop printing thousands of bulletins from printing to give you the opportunity to print out your measly 3-page spreads.
3) Staff meetings take place in the hall as staff are walking to and from the microwave, where we’ve heated up leftovers for the third time. Incidentally, it’s for this very week that I keep an emergency supply of Graham Crackers in the bottom drawer of my desk.
4) That blinking light festooning our office phones, alerting us to messages, is totally ignored. The only person it actually registers with is the worship leader, who nervously checks the countdown for Christmas and has a slight panic attack, realizing that Christmas is only 264 days away.
5) Hammering and painting at all hours of the night is totally normal. It’s also normal to see staff wearing old, ratty clothes as they paint the paper-mache tomb, apply touch-ups to crosses, and haul flowers around the worship center.
6) The coffee machine is perpetually empty, as the entire coffee-imbibing staff has guzzled it down faster than you can say “caffeine fix”.
7) Staff members go home at the end of a long day and only then realize bizarre afflictions, like whistling “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” for hours at a time, or that they’ve unknowingly spray-painted their toes black as they painted the set for Easter.
8) Things that aren’t actually funny become uproaringly hilarious to frazzled church staffers and volunteers who have rubbed off their fingerprints after folding bulletins for hours on end.
9) The church office becomes festively stuffed with chocolate goodies and an abundance of cookies in bright pastel colors. Of course, you could be risking death by consuming these mysteriously-delivered treats. I generally employ rigorous quizzing of the receptionist, to see if these delectables can pass my strict standards of consumption. If I can’t determine A) Who made them, B) How old they are, or C) If anyone has passed out minutes after consuming them, I generally avoid eating them.
10) We cry a little on the inside when we see marshmallow Peeps for sale at the local drug stores.
If your church staff exhibits any of the above signs, I’d be willing to be that they too are experiencing “Holy Week Syndrome”. There’s only one cure known to man:
Throw up some prayers.
Oh, and wear comfortable shoes. Jesus doesn’t like blisters, either.