On Maundy Thursday, I was surprised by the reaction of my daughters to the end of the worship service. Similar to many Episcopal churches, Christ Church does a stripping of the altar. The communion ware is removed to the sacristy, as are the altar book, frontal hanging of the altar, and a few kneelers. The stoles that the clergy wear are removed and given up. Even the cross, which sits on the altar at Christ Church, is removed. My daughters were really disturbed by this. I could see them in the front pew, mouthing to me "What is going on? Why are they doing this? Why are they taking away the church things?" At the same time as trying to kneel and pray myself, I was mouthing back to them, "It is all okay. Everything is fine. We will talk about it later."

I was surprised at their fearful and confused reaction because they had been to that service before and seen the stripping of the altar. I later realized that every previous Maundy Thursday, I had been one of the people taking things away from the altar. Here, it was the nice ladies of the chancel chapter (called an altar guild in many places). Not one of them looks scary or like the stereotype of a robber. And yet, that's what my daughters thought. They couldn't imagine why anyone would take the things, especially the things used for the Eucharist, away from the altar. One of my girls thought that these people were taking over the church and kicking us out, making us go worship elsewhere.


The experience of Maundy Thursday is meant to end on a jarring note. We are supposed to feel confused, like the disciples were at the last supper, not really understanding why Jesus was washing their feet or saying that bread and wine were his body and blood. We are supposed to feel the solitude and emptiness, as if we were in the garden with Jesus, struggling to stay awake and not being sure why that was so important. But we grown-ups sometimes have problems living into those moments. Our minds get lost in and overwhelmed by the details of our lives. And sometimes we miss the things that are important, like why it is that we remove the things set aside to be holy in our journey through the most holy days of the Christian year.

I want for all children to be so observant and engaged. Their engagement and attentiveness to those small details can enrich our grown-up experience. Listen to the young friends in your life -- your kids, nieces and nephews, neighbors -- and see through their eyes and experience. You never know what you may learn.