Hosanna: a Footsteps event for Palm Sunday
Our Palm Sunday event included drama, craft and activities, a space for prayer and a bring and share tea. It was structured on similar lines to Journeying in the desert and The Good Samaritan.
As the children arrived they were asked if they wanted to be soldiers, stall holders or the people of Jerusalem.
We provided red cloaks and wooden swords (made long ago by my son) for the soldiers and a variety of cloaks and dressing up clothes for the other characters. The stall holders were given placards and paper doves and the people of Jerusalem were given willow branches. Adults were asked to take the parts of Jesus (white robe) and the priest (black cloak).
We asked a teenager to take charge of the soldiers and give them some marching practice.
We began with a short welcome and opening prayer and then moved straight into the drama.
We wanted to show the context for the events of Palm Sunday so we emphasised the presence of the Roman army, the role of the priests and the longing for a Messiah.
"It was Passover time! Jerusalem was full of people coming to celebrate the Passover. Passover was the time when the Jews remembered how God had led them out of slavery in Egypt... They came to Jerusalem to celebrate...
Everywhere you looked there were crowds of people. Some had come long distances to be in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem was an occupied city in an occupied country.
It was the Romans who were in charge...
(Roman soldiers marched down the aisle and out the door)
The Jews longed to be free. They longed for the Messiah, God's chosen one, who would come and set them free... When would he come? Would he ever come?
Meanwhile the Jews continued to worship God in the temple. The priests were in charge of the temple. They told the Jews how to worship, and how to live their lives... The priests were the most powerful people in Jerusalem."
(The priest walked down the aisle and out the door)
At this point we played "Make Way" and the narrator asked the congregation to leave the church and go outside to line the path.
We had set the money changers and dove sellers up in the porch, so people had to make their way past them in order to leave.
The Roman soldiers were spaced out a short distance away from the path, giving the impression of being in an occupied country.
Jesus entered by the gate and the crowd were encouraged to wave their palm branches, throw down their cloaks and cheer "Hosanna to the Son of David!"
Jesus made his way up the path but the priest stepped forward and challenged him to quiet the crowd.
"I tell you if the people were silent theses very stones would cry out."
Jesus made his way into the porch, and overturned the tables of the money changers and dove sellers, shouting that they had made his father's house into a den of thieves.
"Who is this troublemaker? What will he do next? We must do something about him..."
Craft and activities
We used a Messy Church recipe for these "sundaes" which were made in clear plastic cups.
The ingredients were: green jelly (representing the palms), pink angel delight (the crowd), crumbled digestive biscuits (the dusty road), whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles (just for fun). This was a very popular activity!
Hobby horse donkeys:
Another idea from Messy Church. We cut donkey heads out of card and the children coloured them and decorated them.
The donkey heads were sellotaped to sticks so that the children could "ride" them.
Palm Sunday collage:
We taped a long strip of lining paper onto the floor and invited the children to print palm leaves along it.
The children added people and the donkey in brown paint.
Palm leaf weaving:
Palm leaf shapes were cut out of a variety of coloured paper. Then four vertical slits were cut down the leaf. The children chose different coloured strips of paper to weave in and out.
This activity took a while to get going. However, it proved popular after the food when the children tended to go round and try out all the activities they hadn't managed earlier.
Cross and nails:
The crafts also included some that were related to the rest of the Easter story as we knew most of the children would not be in church over Easter.
They were given the opportunity to hammer four nails into a piece of wood and then to wind wool around the nails into a cross shape. This station needed a lot of adult supervision, and the finished result rarely looked cross shaped!
The road to the cross - and after:
We offered scratch cards - either in cross shape or as a rectangle - for the children to make their own responses. We also had stained glass hanging crosses that the children could colour in if they wished.
What happened next?
We wanted something that would encourage people to go deeper into the story.
We used the chancel to spread out our pictures of the events of Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day with words describing each scene.
"On Good Friday Jesus died on the cross......and on Easter Day he was alive! Easter is a time of joy and hope...
You might like to come and look at the pictures to see what happened to Jesus after Palm Sunday... Perhaps you have questions you would like to ask about what happened? You might like to write your question on a post it note and put it on the board..."
However we found that even though this station was manned few people came to look at the pictures and no one wrote any questions!
Free response:We put out a variety of response materials (wooden rainbow, felt squares, shimmer stones, building blocks etc) and invited them to make their own response to the story. These included the wooden Jerusalem, the figure of Jesus on the donkey, the felt road and a basket of small leaves and coats. We also had a table with art materials.
Words:We all dream sometimes about how things could be different and how our lives could be better. The crowds who watched Jesus ride into Jerusalem had their hopes and dreams as well.
They longed for a leader who would help them drive the Romans from their land so that they could live in peace and prosperity.
Many of them hoped Jesus was going to be that leader…
But the road Jesus took led to his death on the cross... You may like to write or draw a prayer on a leaf and place it on the road...
Activity:Placing green prayer leaves and palm crosses on black cloth, representing the road to Jerusalem.
Closing responsesOur prayers were short and included the Lord's prayer, known to many of the children through school. We finished by singing "Give me oil in my lamp" followed by a blessing.
FoodBring and share tea with pizza, cheese savouries, sausage rolls, cake and nibbles.
How well did it work?
We had fewer children than previously as we had not invited the school choir. (This was because this year Palm Sunday occurred during the school holidays.) This made the church feel emptier than before, especially during the prayer time at the end.
Despite this the drama went very well, especially as the congregation had to move around to different locations.
One of the most compelling moments for me was when the congregation went outside to find the soldiers, red cloaks swirling in the wind, standing at intervals behind the path. There was a brief moment of realsiation that first century Judea was indeed an occupied country.
The "Make Way" music fitted perfectly with the theme and added a lot to the atmosphere as the congregation left and re-entered the church.
The crafts were enjoyed by all the children but seemed to lack a craft with a "wow" factor - which we had achieved with previous events through painting backdrops and sand art.
No one really looked at the pictures of Holy Week for the "going deeper" station; it might have been better to have had them in a different place. Only a few children and adults wrote prayers, this may have been because this station was unmanned and so they were unsure what to do.
You can download a PDF of the script here:
with thanks to Rowena Berridge, Philip Tait, Michael Jenkins, James Hadlow and the rest of the Footsteps Team