Looking to experience Holy Week in a new way?

New resource connects generations in faith formation activities

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — For those looking to experience Holy Week in a new and interesting way, the Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center has a solution, Easter-in-a-Basket.

The camp is providing a Holy Week resource that features eight mini lessons which start on Palm Sunday and continue daily through Easter. The “basket” features activities that encourage family and community connection and delivers participants an opportunity to connect the Easter story with current times. You can learn more about the Easter-in-a-Basket project, including cost, how to order and shipping options, by going here.

Each of the eight days includes a lesson with a scripture, reflective questions and a prayer. Also included are actions that connect scripture and the theme, including games, recipes, service work, and Holy Week traditions from around the world. Click here for the example of Good Friday’s lesson.

Easter-in-a-Basket is the result of previous successful “box” projects developed by Ferncliff staff, including Advent-in-a-Box and Camp-in-a-Box. Both of those efforts were the result of creative thinking by camp staff once the pandemic became a way of life in 2020. Knowing that Christian educators and church educators would start the new year focused on Lent, Ferncliff wanted to provide an option that required little work or adaptation for Holy Week, according to Joel Gill, executive director at Ferncliff.

“Once it was decided that we wouldn’t be able to host our typical in-person summer programs last summer we started to think about other ways to reach out to our campers and churches,” said Gill.  “Lots of camps were going either the virtual camp route or the Camp-in-a-Box route.  We did both but put more emphasis on the Camp-in-a-Box resource.”

For Gill, the key to Ferncliff’s success was connecting with churches and congregations who were in the same boat. Knowing they were unable to host in-person VBS programs, the Ferncliff staff felt they could put together a high-quality resource by giving them a ready-to-use VBS program during the pandemic.  It became a huge hit with more than 1,500 kits going to 22 states and 100 congregations.

According to Jocelyn Wildhack, Ferncliff’s chaplain and camp director and the content creator for the Easter resource, one of the biggest challenges was finding content that people could experience remotely. Combing through various passages that Ferncliff uses during Holy Week, Wildhack chose scriptures that people at home could dive into without a pastor or Sunday school teacher present.  Each scripture is accompanied by an “Easter Egg” side note that peels away layers of context in the passages.

“Many of the crafts and activities are timely versions of what the church has been doing for centuries: waving palms, washing feet, baking unleavened bread, sharing meals together,” she said. “I put together the scriptures, craft supplies, and the encouragement to gather at a distance.”

For ideas on what to include in the Easter basket, Wildhack searched through old Christian education resources, Pinterest, ideas from friends and colleagues, and her own favorite childhood experiences of Holy Week.

A finished craft project from the Easter-in-a-Basket camp project (Photo provided by Jocelyn Wildhack)

Also referred to by Ferncliff personnel as “Holy Week in a Box,” each basket includes a guidebook and all the supplies needed to complete the daily activity. Each one is designed to be low stress, can be worked on remotely, and connects family members through faith formation activities.

“The resource’s scriptures, infographics, crafts, and activities are meant to be intergenerational,” Wildhack said.  “Writing intergenerationally is not about watering things down or only leaving in what meets the needs of everyone but providing enough options and different perspectives that everyone finds something meaningful inside.”

Different pages will stand out for different folks, she said, but experiencing them together ties the Easter-in-a Box materials together, even if they’re done separately. For example, grandparents and grandkids who are unable to come together can do the activities individually, then share their experience over the phone or Zoom.

“For little hands, these crafts and activities will require an older person working together with them — sharing that time together in faith formation,” Wildhack said. “There are questions for reflection that families can use around the dinner table, and folks living alone can bring up over a phone call or in a journal.”

 

The camp community is a close-knit one, made even closer by the pandemic this past year, which forced camps to collaborate and get very creative just to keep the doors open, let alone continue ministry. In that respect it’s not surprising that Ferncliff has partnered with three other camps to provide Easter-in-a-Basket: Camp Fellowship in Waterloo, South Carolina; Pyoca Camp and Retreat Center in Brownstown, Indiana; and Camp Kintail in Goderich, Ontario, Canada, are also delivering “Easter baskets” to their local communities. It’s called the Easter-in-a-Basket Camp Collective. Each camp agreed to collect their own orders and create the kits to fulfill and deliver them. The regional partnerships also help save the churches and individuals money on shipping costs.

The Rev. Molly DeWitt, with Pyoca Camp and Retreat Center, notes that they have a wide reach when they work together. She said the entire camp community, even beyond the PC(USA), has been collaborating more than ever to make sure that congregations and families feel supported by them.

 

“We find that folks typically associate camp with providing resources that are just for kids, yet we strive to serve a camp community of all ages,” DeWitt said. “The best part of Easter-in-a-Basket is that there’s something fun and whole lot to learn for people of every age — it’s an intergenerational program.”

 

The Rev. Theresa McDonald-Lee, co-executive director at Camp Kintail, feels it is a gift to be able to share ideas and programs with trusted partners and friends.

“At a time when welcoming guests to our site is not possible, it is wonderful to be able to reach out and offer faith formation opportunities to campers and churches,” she said.


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