Baptists aren’t leaders in liturgical innovation. In fact, we’re kind of spare in our worship rituals. We focus more on inner experience than outer ceremony. But we’re also human, and humans are incorrigible meaning-makers.
At Wilshire, we’ve added a few splashes to our primary liturgical colors. Baptism now includes the salt and light ritual after immersion (or the affirmation of baptism). It reminds us of Jesus’ words to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world.” Tasting the salt on our lips and holding the lit candle in our hands ushers the words across time so that they may accompany us as we make our way in the world.
We have no Scripture to back up our tradition of closing the shutters on the Sanctuary windows during Lent and then opening them on Easter morning. It just seemed an aesthetically pleasing symbol, and it has become spiritually powerful to us over time.
Our Sanctuary doesn’t feature stained glass windows telling stories of the faith visually or refracting the light in ways that wash the mystery of God-with-us over the congregation. Our Georgian architectural style building bears Colonial Williamsburg marks. Clean lines. Clear windows. Shutters for light control.
Easter is no time for light control. It’s a time to let it shine. The darkness has descended for the 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays, which are breakfast days—breaks in the fast!). So, on Easter, with hopes the rain and clouds stay away, we sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and the shutters are opened as if they are the stone being rolled away from the Gethsemane grave.
Alas, this year the Sanctuary will be as empty as the garden tomb. We will open our shutters and shades at home. Our hearts will open as well, while our spirits long for that Sunday to come when we will again gather — this time no doubt nestling a bit closer to one another in the pew than before the pandemic, happy to be close again to one another.
Until that day, the risen Christ will shine his light in our homes and hearts. Until that day, then, Happy Easter, Easter people!