The holiest time of the year for many Christians-- the week between Palm Sunday and Easter-- is marked with special worship services and programs.
Hours of memorizing scripts, songs or liturgical dance moves all come to a head across denominational and ethnic backgrounds as many families gather to celebrate the season by way of cantatas, plays, dance recitals and other events.
“In many black churches, we have programs focused on reiterating the meaning of this season: The life, death and resurrection of our Savior,” said Pamela Jenkins, a member of Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale, Md., Tuesday night after she and hundreds of other church members rehearsed for today’s musical.
Wednesday at 7 p.m. Reid Temple’s program, “Easter at the Temple: A Musical of Resurrection Hope,” will feature choirs, liturgical dancers, the orchestra and guest artists the Rev. Wintley Phipps, Reid Temple’s own Beverly Askia, local quartet Soul Messengers and gospel artist Martha Munizzi.
On Palm Sunday, historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., kicked off Holy Week with a gospel choir praise service. On Saturday, Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro, Md., will have a Broadway-style production titled “The Bride” featuring animals, a laser light show and performances by gospel legends Donnie McClurkin and Beverly Crawford and Middle Tennessee pastor and actor Wess Morgan; pastor and singer Marvin Sapp was featured during shows over the weekend. According to the church Web site, the audience will “enter the heavenly throne room and see the Lord Jesus making intercession for you. You will also witness the empowering guidance of the Holy Spirit as He leads us to maturity.”
Several congregations such as Shiloh will have Maundy Thursday services and feature a Seven Last Words of Christ service on Good Friday.
The purpose of the services, which are particularly targeted at individuals who may not regularly attend worship services throughout the year, are a “reintroduction to Holy Week that begins with Palm Sunday and culminates with the resurrection on Easter Sunday morning,” said the Rev. Thomas Bowen, Shiloh’s minister of fellowship and outreach. “It also highlights Lent. It is necessary to pay tribute to the suffering of Christ before the joy of Easter.”
Patrick Lundy, director of Reid Temple’s Christian Fine Arts, said the work is more than production or pageantry, but about using different gifts to honor and praise God.
“I love what this church has meant to me and how I’ve grown as a Christian by being here,” Jenkins said, adding that she’s humbled to participate annually in an Easter program because she helps reinforce the teachings of senior pastor the Rev. Dr. Lee P. Washington. “God’s love for humanity manifested in this way is amazing. I believe for anyone who doubts that Jesus is real, this program will dispel that and affirm that he governs our walk, our steps and our lives every day.”