Think Outside the Branch: Ideas for Eco-Palms

I love Palm Sunday! It marks the beginning of the most holy and profound faith-week of each year. After 5.5 weeks of Lenten disciplines, somber music, winter doldrums, and no alleluias, joy bursts into the worship service again. Joyful hosannas fill the air outside where we’ve gathered for the blessing of the palms and inside, a cantata of the Passion Story is sung by our choir, with Eco-Palms from Guatemala everywhere adorning our worship.

Expert Tips and Tricks

Having used Eco-Palms since Lutheran World Relief launched the program 12 years ago, I’ve learned a variety of creative ways to use them besides the traditional waving during our Palm Sunday procession. That’s a great place to start, but these beautiful, graceful palms can easily have a much broader presence in Palm Sunday worship services.

Salem Lutheran Church, Catonsville, MD decorated with eco-palms for Palm Sunday.
Salem Lutheran Church, Catonsville, MD decorated with eco-palms for Palm Sunday.

Allow yourself to think outside the waving and consider these tips:

  • Order extra Eco-Palms to use in your altar vases instead of flowers. It’s an inexpensive way to decorate and more festive for the occasion.
  • Adorn your processional cross with Eco-Palms and begin the procession with these emerald green fronds, gathered just for this purpose in eco-fashion by small-scale farmers. Palms can be attached with green wire or green florist tape. It makes a powerful statement during the procession, especially if your congregation also waves palms.
  • In addition to distributing them to your members, scatter some across the floor of the chancel and the aisles of the nave before the service, evoking the road into Jerusalem.
  • Use them to decorate the windowsills of the nave and narthex.
  • Save some for Easter – yes, they last that long! Place some in water to have fresh for Easter Sunday. We outline our brass altar cross with palms inserted into a Styrofoam cross attached to the back of the brass cross. They can also be used to fill in among the cascade of lilies and hide the floral stands. This way, the palms span the days of Holy Week—on Passion Sunday, they hold the foretaste of Easter joy; on Easter Day, they recall the sin of our fickle praises.

I’ve heard folks from other churches say they don’t want to order Eco-Palms because they use the palm strips that can be made into palm crosses. Why not use both . . . we do!


Making a Difference Together

While it’s fun to be creative with Eco-Palms and focus on their festive beauty, their most profound beauty is in the benefits they bring to harvesting communities that grow them. With harvesters earning five to six times more per frond than traditional palms, Eco-Palms help harvesters and their families live healthier and more productive lives. By pooling a portion of their palm proceeds, harvesting communities are able to hire teachers, repair schools, build roads and have access to health care. All this happens through one simple purchase that’s available to every congregation. Now, that’s a truly beautiful thing!