I recently discovered that the Madison Central High School prom is scheduled the night before Easter. A number of ministers in the Richmond Area Ministerial Association contacted the high school principal and the district superintendent to voice concern about the scheduling. The proximity of the two events, prom and Easter, were not lost on these school figures, though there was nothing they could do to change the already scheduled and near-at-hand prom this year. Still, they reassured the ministers that this kind of thing would not happen again. Of course, Easter is extremely late this calendar year and it likely won’t occur this late in April again, at least for some time. So their promises are well founded, no matter how much (or, more likely, little) control they actually have over scheduling these events.
If the Richmond ministers were to have published a letter voicing public concern for this scheduling, I would have joined them. Of course, I would not have joined an effort to undermine support for the students, faculty, and staff of the school (after all, the churches vigorously support Project Graduation and other school efforts). Rather, I would have hoped to register a concern for the religious and spiritual well-being of students, faculty and staff, while also seeking to protect the life of religious institutions I hold dear. Likely, students who will be dancing and celebrating the whole night (sometimes staying overnight at a home or sharing an early morning Prom breakfast together) will not be rested or recovered enough to attend and/or participate in Easter services, especially the sunrise services. And parents who volunteer to host after-prom activities might also be worn out and (however reluctantly) miss the morning worship services. At First Christian Church, we are encouraging students to come as they are; yes, even “decked out” in their prom gear. We’ll see how many late night owls come crawling in on Sunday morning.
Traditionally, schools have been quite aware of religious holidays, and, to be honest, historically that awareness has been myopically centered on Christian events. Still, however unfair that sensitivity has been to other religious communities and events, the traditional sensitivity for the Christian calendar is receding (even if slowly). So while I would endorse an effort to register a public concern over an Easter Eve prom, I wouldn’t do so without a healthy dose of robust conversation. For example, is it time for Christian communities to lament but nevertheless accept this trend? If so, what would “acceptance” mean or lead to? Or would it right and good that public disapproval for ignoring Christian holidays be voiced by area ministers?
Further yet, should Christian communities suggest (or implicitly affirm) that their holy days are the only (or at least most important) ones which should be respected? Honestly, I’m left wondering how planning committees can effectively and equitably respect all religious holidays when making major school plans (like scheduling school breaks, dances, graduations, etc). And on the other hand, I’m wondering how the make-up of a community should be properly reflected in planning decisions and event scheduling (do we need to respect Ramadan events when there are no Muslims (currently) in the community?).
I think all this calls for careful reflection. I would love to hear your thoughts and concerns, ideas and experiences. It seems to me that conversation is needed. I hope you’ll join in, whether or not you are a Christian, Minister, or have this particular issue in your immediate community. I’d love to hear your impressions and suggestions.