Movement Embraces Tradition, Exercises Innovation in Holy Week, Easter Activities
By Carl Stagner
Advent activities seem to spread out annually over several weeks leading up to Christmas, but the pinnacle holiday of the Christian calendar nevertheless finds Church of God congregations embracing tradition and exercising innovation for at least seven days straight. In fact, some congregations of have already disbursed daily doses of inspiration and admonition beginning on Palm Sunday and continuing through Easter; at least one congregation of the Church of God has held nightly worship services throughout Holy Week, not limited to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Whether reaching out to the community through egg hunts and a host of family activities, or through the rich symbolism of footwashing rituals and the Easter sunrise service at the crack of dawn (complete with sufficient caffeine), the Church of God movement has clearly pulled out all the stops this year for Easter experiences designed to leave an eternal imprint.
Many Church of God congregations opt to involve children and the families in the classic Easter egg hunt on Resurrection Sunday after morning worship; others find strategic placement the day before Easter or on Palm Sunday weekend. Churches like Bayside in Safety Harbor, Florida, called their offsite “Eggstravaganza” in the nearby city of Oldsmar a “cracking success.” Like numerous other churches, they chose to schedule their egg hunt off church property, removing as many barriers as possible to community participation.
But if you’re NSPIRE Church in Westfield, Indiana, you’ve still got to take the traditional egg hunt to a completely different level—the sky, that is! Scheduled for Saturday, April 8, their “Easter Egg Drop” has become a local phenomenon, as families await countless eggs to drop dramatically from a helicopter—yep, you read that right—a helicopter.
First Church of God in Tulare, California, has been busy throughout the week leading up to Easter. It’s not even summer break, yet they’ve said anytime is good for a Vacation Bible School. “Easter VBS” is attracting families daily from the congregation and community to the church for fun and faith.
While some churches canceled normal Wednesday night programming in light of an unusually busy week, others pressed on with business as usual, even enhancing their usual midweek events. Eastside Community Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is one example. “What a powerful time celebrating Passover together! We are so grateful for each one that helped make this evening special!” the pastor posted on Facebook.
Maundy Thursday post-pandemic prompted an uptick over previous years in the number of Church of God congregations hosting footwashing and Communion. Fox Street Church of God in Sugarcreek, Pennsylvania, is one of the congregations acknowledging the beauty of such the ordinance that symbolizes humble servanthood, even if the act in present society may seem somewhat uncomfortable. The Church of God of Cleveland (Ohio) hosted a gathering called “The Night Before,” in which the Lord’s Supper and footwashing were also administered in powerfully illustrative ways. Like Fox Street Church of God and the Church of God of Cleveland, other congregations from coast to coast, and far beyond, participated in meaningful moments of togetherness and reflection.
Good Friday meant ecumenical unity services in some parts of the country, while others hosted their own “Passion” plays and other dramatic features and choral cantatas. Several Church of God congregations participated in experiences known as the “Seven Sayings” or the “Seven Last Words of Jesus,” including Transforming Life Church of God in Baltimore, Maryland; these events have historically been spiritually moving in lasting ways. Other churches hosted “stations of the cross,” interactive and spiritually invigorating hands-on experiences. The Church at Broadway Park in Alexandria, Indiana, was one church that announced a “come-and-go, self-guide, interactive encounter” that they dubbed “Journey to the Cross.”
Speaking of journeys to the cross, reports of life-changing experiences are already surfacing in the Church of God; many baptism ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday, but some couldn’t wait for Easter to celebrate new life in Christ. Shartel Church of God in Oklahoma City, for instance, celebrated nineteen declarations of faith through immersion on the Wednesday before Easter. We can’t wait to hear of more life change through Easter Sunday and beyond—it is inevitable, praise God!
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: “Stations of the cross” station at Monroe City Church of God in southern Indiana.