Holy Week in the Tate household

Holy Week will be hectic for the Rev. Sara Tate and her husband Craig. Between them, they’re serving as pastors of six churches, he’s attending seminary, and they’re raising their 15-month-old son, Cooper.

Together, the Rev. Sara Tate and her husband, Craig, serve as pastors of six different United Methodist churches in the Memphis area. Given that Mr. Tate is in seminary, and the Tates have a toddler, life can get hectic during Holy Week. Ms. Tate answered questions via email from staff writer Mary Jacobs; here are excerpts.

What will your Holy Week schedule look like this year?

 Holy Week is like running a 5k, or a marathon, or a triathlon! It’s physically and mentally exhausting, no matter how much you’ve prepared. It’s kind of like a wedding. You can map things out and delegate and something will still go wrong. But, like a wedding, no one remembers all the things that go wrong. If that’s not the definition of grace…..

Craig and I will both have Easter egg hunts (our son Cooper will be expected to attend). We’ll both have three Palm Sunday services and children to chorale and prepare. We’ll both have Maundy Thursday services, Good Friday services, I’ll have an Easter Sunrise service that’s an ecumenical, community-wide service, and we’ll each have three Easter Sunday services. Then we’ll likely collapse until sometime Tuesday.

Craig’s Spring Break from Memphis Theological is Easter week – obviously not so they can take a “break” but so they can work, and work hard.

For all of these services, we’ll juggle our dinner plans and our 15-month-old. Our families live 35 minutes away, so they’re not an option.

Have you had any “moments” in past years during Holy Week, where you knew your stress wasn’t under control, or that you’d need to start doing something differently to better cope the next year?  

I’m only on my third year in the pulpit, so the last few years have been more than a learning experience. It’s consisted of a lot of trial and error. They don’t teach you multi-church-charge-101-in-a-clergy-family-with-a-baby in seminary. Theologically we’re prepared. Logistically, we’re completely lost.

I’ve learned to delegate what I can, ask for help within my charge taking care of Cooper, and plan, plan, plan in advance. I know the easiest way to make God laugh is to make plans of our own, but I’m finding that I cannot fail when I allow God to be a part, or THE part, of the plan.

Last year we asked for some extra help with our son so we had some extra “quiet time” to get it all mapped out. It’s really hard asking for help – especially when it’s on a personal level. We’re supposed to be incredible jugglers but, again, I don’t remember Candler offering that class.

What tasks do you delegate, and to whom? 

I find that at the very least, delegating gathering “things” is helpful. Luckily these churches have been doing this for a long time and they have traditions that they’re used to setting up – Easter breakfast, crosses wrapped in chicken-wire to flower on Easter morning. I also delegate someone to pick up our palm fronds for Palm Sunday and the elements for Eucharist for Maundy Thursday. I need to get to a place where I can let go of more, though. If I can speak a vision to a lay person for how I’d like to see the altar set for worship and trust that it’ll happen or that I’ve adequately conveyed a vision, then I’ll go for it. Or if I can get to a place where I let go of my own vision and let someone else with that gift “take off” with it, then I will.

Do you have anything in particular that you do or plan to do in order to recharge?

The best thing we can ever do is get a baby-sitter and get out of town – get away from the house phone – get away from the familiarity of where we live. Being spontaneous and doing something we haven’t done before is always a goal, though at times we fall back on the familiar – dinner, a movie, a trip to the zoo. I wish, most often, that we knew folks with a cabin and could just escape to nature where it’s quiet and communal and simply lay back and ask, “Hey God, so, what did you think?”

What about experiencing the spiritual side of Holy Week?   

Leading is often a way of being filled but let’s face it – sometimes we pour out so much of ourselves that we’re left empty or we run out before the marathon is over. Taking some time every night to decompress and pray is essential. If we can pray together, it’s all-the-better. Often we’re still left empty when it’s all said and done and that time we take when Easter is over is even more vital.

We’re experience the Spirit during Holy Week just like anyone else. We invite its presence and ask it to fill us where we’re empty.


Mary Jacobs

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