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Palm Sunday

green palm branches with a light pinkish background

Sunday 24th March
Year B: Palm Sunday: Red

Liturgy of the Palms

  • Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
  • Mark 11: 1-11 or John 12: 12-16

Liturgy of the Passion

  • Psalms 31: 9-16 (or Psalm 31: 9-18)
  • Isaiah 50: 4-9a
  • Philippians 2: 5-11
  • Mark 14: 1 – 15: 47


A traditional Palm Sunday service incorporates both the Procession of Palms and the reading (or sometimes singing) of the Passion Narrative. The full liturgy can be found here.

The Procession of Palms, originating in 4th century Jerusalem, begins with a blessing of palm branches (or willow or yew, or whatever is available!) Some churches have artificial palms that they have used for years, which they hand to people as they arrive. Others invite people to bring their own greenery. Maybe we could introduce a new trend of bringing saplings that could later be planted and remain a blessing to their owners and creation? A Gospel reading relating to the triumphant entry of Christ into the city is then read, followed by a procession to or around the church. It is a great witness to begin from somewhere outside the church and who knows, perhaps some people will be curious and join in.

The Gospel of the Passion is long! It is traditional for people to stand during Gospel readings, but do make it comfortable for people to sit for most or all of it if they wish. Whether singing or speaking it is a good idea to include lots of different voices, and even the congregation as the crowd.  A dramatized version of all four Gospel Passion Narratives can be found here. (If you follow the lectionary we are reading Mark this year.)


So now we are seriously into Holy Week and the events leading up to Easter. For many years of my ministry I was blessed with heading up ‘Easter Schools’ for people in training for ministry. These involved a deep dive into the passion narrative on a week-long residential over Holy Week and Easter. These happened in a number of different places including cathedral closes, retreat houses, youth camps and Lindisfarne. My, very able colleagues and invited tutors led most of them, and so although ultimately responsible, I was able to immerse myself to a degree alongside the students. I tell you this because I want to invite you, as leaders in your local churches to do the same.

It is very easy, when you are leading, to be so involved with the business of making sure everything is in place, that we can forget that others will help us and want to see us recognise our own need to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk of Holy Week.

You will all have your own ways of doing this and I am not suggesting what follows is any better – just an idea – and one which many of you will have heard from me before!

After hearing the Passion Narrative in church why not reread it yourself quietly over the course of the week. Taking each scene in turn, imagine yourself present there, wherever it feels comfortable for you. Imagine talking to one or more of the characters. What do they say? At the end of each scene imagine yourself talking to Jesus. What do you say to him? And what does he say to you?