Sunday, February 20, 2011


With Palm Sunday two months away, reminders to order palms for the Palm Sunday liturgy are starting to arrive at parish offices.

Last year St. Stephen’s ordered palms through the Eco-Palms project through The University of Minnesota Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM). These branches of the chamaedorea palm were lovely, and worked very well for arrangements in vases and for us to wave in procession. New to the Eco-Palms website this year is a link to The Episcopal Church as one of its partners.

The primary reason to consider ordering eco-palms is that the way they are harvested, emphasizing quality of the branches over the quantity harvested, is environmentally sustainable and also results in better pay for the workers. Consideration of the effects of our purchase of palms on both the people who harvest them and on God’s creation is important given that we use them to hail Jesus as our King.

In last year’s post about eco-palms, it was noted that the rubrics for Palm Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 270) talk about distributing “branches of palm or of other trees or shrubs” to people to be carried in the procession. In his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, Marion Hatchett wrote (p. 225) that these rubrics encourage the use of branches rather than fronds or small crosses “which can hardly be waved and certainly fail to signify a parade”. Our parish found that the change palms last year from a thin reedlike frond to full chamaedorea palms helped to change the tone of the procession. The more celebratory tone of the procession called attention to the contrast between the festive procession and the reading of the Passion Gospel later on in the service, creating a more profound liturgical experience.

I hear that there was enough of a touch of springlike weather in Nebraska last week to be anticipating Lent. I’ve been away on the Hawaiian islands of Kaua’i and Maui, reminded once again of the goodness and richness of God’s creation – seabirds, whales, flowers, and an incredible variety of palms. And back home, the Sandhill cranes, our own striking sign of the goodness and richness of creation, are beginning to arrive back in the Platte River valley. As we rejoice in the early promises of spring and anticipate the holy season of Lent, being good stewards of creation can deepen our connection with God.