Movement Marks Days Leading Up to Easter with Reverence, Reflection

 In All Church of God, CHOG

By Carl Stagner

It would be difficult to pinpoint on the church calendar a series of days regarded more broadly as special and sacred than the week leading up to Easter. Among Church of God congregations in the United States and Canada, in particular, a wide variety of gatherings, services, programming, and outreach events suggest scant, if any, break in the busy activity from Palm Sunday through Easter. From the quintessential parade of children waving palm branches down the aisle, to “Stations of the Cross” and “Last Words (Sayings) of Christ” ceremonies, to the ordinances of Communion and footwashing, Church of God congregations have held nothing back in facilitating moments for parishioners and the public to examine themselves against the backdrop of the cross.

With artificial branches waving and high-decibel hosannas resounding, congregations like Indiana’s Greensburg First Church of God and Monroe City Church of God pulled out all the stops for Palm Sunday. Celebration of the Triumphal Entry took on a less artificial form at NorthPark Church in Meridian, Mississippi, where a “special visitor” brought biblical stories to life for all, and smiles to the faces of children of all ages. NorthPark’s live donkey offered perhaps some comic relief to the start of what has been dubbed by saints globally as Holy Week; the turn toward the more serious and reflective would come Monday morning.

Oils/spices ready for Maundy Thursday at Grace Harbor, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Throughout the week, Church of God congregations like New Beginnings in Albuquerque, New Mexico, published video, audio, or written daily devotions to aid worshipers in meaningful observance of this solemn and important time of the year. Taking a more cinematic approach, First Church of God in Salem, Illinois, advertised a public screening of the classic The Passion of the Christ. Preferring live drama and a creative take, Harvest Point Church of God in Lordstown, Ohio, held their re-enactment of the Lord’s Supper last week as a breakfast option. Theatrical production for Preston First Church of God in Owingsville, Kentucky, would take on an especially creative tone—a compelling stage play titled The Bloodstained Cross.

With Maundy Thursday a favorite observance of many in the Church of God movement, congregations from coast to coast are preparing to roll up pant legs for footwashing. The ordinance known for humility and servanthood, coupled with Communion, comprise the bulk of Upper Room services, held at churches like Rustic Hills Community in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Hope Community Church of God in Shreveport, Louisiana. A creative twist on the Maundy Thursday observance is planned to inspire participants at Grace Harbor in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where a self-guided, self-serve Upper Room experience awaits.

Last Supper “breakfast” re-enactment at Harvest Point, Lordstown, Ohio.

Good Friday services are augmented this week at congregations like First Church of God of Middle River, Maryland, where Stations of the Cross are ready to bless guests. Advertising states, “We encourage your presence on Good Friday, at 7:00 PM, as we will look at the eight biblical stations of the cross in a framework of Scripture readings, with meditations, and prayers.We will follow Jesus’ path along the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, and his journey from Pilate’s Hall to his death on the cross.” Like other churches, Jones Chapel in Meridian, Mississippi, will conduct a public “Cross Walk.” Additionally, numerous congregations of the Church of God are again hosting, or participating in, a “Seven Last Sayings” or “Seven Last Words” of Christ ceremony. First Church of God in New Haven, Connecticut, for instance, will partner with the local clergy association to unite in reflection and remembrance of these pivotal messages of our Lord.

In what creative ways are you observing the days leading up to Easter? Fill out this simple form to let us know.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: Palm branches waving at Greensburg First Church of God in Indiana.

Start typing and press Enter to search