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UMCom photo illustration by Kathleen Barry.

WAYS: Remembering Holy Week

March-April 2017

Interpreter recently asked its readers, “What is the most meaningful or most moving part of your Holy Week observance or Easter celebration? Why?” These are some of the answers we received. How will you make this a week of remembering and celebration?

The whole Holy Week leading up to the Easter celebrations was what was so significant to me. I can't do Easter without the build up to it. The Rev. Richard Bates, University UMC, Austin, Texas

My most meaningful experiences for Holy Week and Easter is Palm Sunday and sunrise service. Palm Sunday represents Jesus the man and his ups and downs as man. Sunrise service is the holy part that shows the son as God's chosen Messiah. He lives and intercedes on our behalf. Praise Father and Son. Mamie Brown, Center UMC, Summerfield, North Carolina

The Garden of Gethsemane is the most meaningful for me, because every day we are presented with a choice: Do we choose life that often looks like death, or do we choose death that masquerades as life? Jesus gives us the courage to make the right choice. The Rev. Joanne Coleman Campbell, First UMC, Wenatchee, Washington

What I appreciate most about the Lenten/Easter season are the opportunities to receive the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper. The Rev. John Dillard, retired, Wesley UMC, Wichita Falls, Texas

We hold "Lunch Lifts" Monday-Thursday during Holy Week. We have a different guest speaker and serve lunch. The speakers are asked to speak on different things of Jesus' week leading up to His death. Then we have a service Thursday evening. This is always a special week for the community. Faye Durfield, Avondale Pattillo UMC, Decatur, Georgia

My most moving parts of Holy Week and Easter are the foot washing on Maundy Thursday and beginning with a fire at the Easter Sunrise service. The foot washing reminds me of the servant relationship I have with my congregation. Jesus stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples, his brothers in ministry. How humbling of an experience it is for me. Also, beginning the Sunrise service on Easter morning with a fire reminds me of the fire that burned in the courtyard as Peter denied the Lord three times as well as the fire being the new light that is brought into the world through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From that fire, the Christ candle is lit and all the congregation follow that light into the sanctuary to begin the celebration of Resurrection! The Rev. Judith A. “Judy” Flynn, Knottsville UMC Charge, Grafton, West Virginia

I always need the whole Holy Week experience, from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. I think to truly understand that period in Christ’s life you need to go from the heights of Palm Sunday to the depth of Good Friday and then the joy of Easter morning. One of the things that I do each Holy Week is to read the Passion Story in each Gospel. They vary slightly and help me focus on the true meaning of the week. Barbara Goetzelman, Antioch (Illinois) UMC

My Holy Week experience actually begins in the barn where we have our Christmas service. When celebrating the birth of Christ there, we also have a large cross hung up to signify Christ’s death as well. Because, as Pastor Craig Ferguson always reminds us, we can’t fully feel the excitement of Jesus’ birth without feeling the remorse turned to celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When my heart is touched, God brings about incredible opportunities to share his love. Denise Hartford, Johnston River of Life UMC, Carlisle, Iowa

The most meaningful part of Holy Week for me is a 12-hour prayer vigil our church has been doing for 30+ years. From 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. on Easter morning, our church is candlelit and at least two people are there for at least one hour for prayer and spiritual reading. Why? Because it reminds us of what Jesus went through for us. Lee and Mary Harvey, Mainesburg (Pennsylvania) UMC

I serve five small membership churches. Holy Week we gather as one body; the churches are packed at each service. Last year for the Good Friday service, we used the Stations of the Cross, adapted from the Brentwood United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. The parishioners, especially those who were formerly Roman Catholic, connected with this contemplative service. We also gather on Easter morning for a sunrise service of praise through song, followed by a hearty breakfast cooked by the men! We love journeying together! The Rev. Carol Hickman, United for God Cooperative Parish of the UMC, Johnstown, Pennsylvania 

For me, my visit to the Garden of Gethsemane in 1985 remains as a moment that continues to influence my Holy Week experience. To have been in the very place where Christ prayed and see those ancient olive trees makes it come alive for me every year. Memory is my way to travel there again every Holy Week and share in Jesus' journey to the cross. It is as though those olive trees are still whispering to me. Millie Janka, Boyne Falls (Minnesota) UMC

When we bring down the cross from the attic at church and place it in the sanctuary for Lent, I look at it and see Jesus hanging there and begging his father to forgive his tormentors for not knowing what they are doing. Compassion was on his mind instead of revenge or self-pity. To me, that was the epitome of forgiveness and self-sacrifice. He did it all for me. His heart stopped beating so mine could start. Robert L. Martin, First UMC, Wind Gap, Pennsylvania

I feel very humbled and saddened by the pain, suffering and punishment Jesus’ bore for us, and the love he has for us. Jesus clearly understood his mission on earth and that it involved laying down his life as a sacrifice. I keep thinking of the pain he had in his heart knowing every step of his way. Jesus knew it was his Father’s will for him to die for our sins. I think about the things I do wrong, my sins, am thankful God will forgive us if we repent of our sins. I still feel saddened for the pain he bore for the love he gave. It was not nails that held him to the cross; it was LOVE. Jesus died and arose so I, and all who believe in him, can live forever in heaven. May we all lead our lives by the praising God for his gifts. Alleluia! Jesus is alive! Cynthia Nelson, Ellendale (Minnesota) UMC

I really enjoy the change in the music. We go from very solemn, soulful and reflective music during Lent and then on Easter morning, everyone is dressed in beautiful spring colors, the music is so upbeat and joyful! It really puts a smile on your face. Karen Ostlund, South Gate UMC, Lincoln, Nebraska

Every year I am struck by the contrast between the "Hosannas" and the "Crucify Him". How can the extremes be so vast? Help us not be so fickle, Lord. Let our praises go on forever and ever. Jill Pratt, Lewis Memorial UMC, Grovetown, Georgia

The most moving part of the Holy Week observance and Easter celebration are the Holy Week services and Communion. They are so uplifting and spiritual. You can feel the Holy Spirit moving. Lynda Swaggart, Geary (Oklahoma) First UMC

In recent years, I have enjoyed the depiction of the Last Supper and learning about each of the disciples. Ken Todd, Ebenezer UMC, Stafford, Virginia

We at Imperial Beach UMC celebrate Holy Week services with several other United Methodist churches in our area, each church hosting a different service during the week. We usually host the Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) service. We read and recite the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, sing hymns signifying the solemn meaningfulness of Jesus' sacrifice for all who believe in God, our Heavenly Father, and for those who are seeking, partake in foods, symbolizing the meal of Jesus and His disciples, and other traditional experiences. One of the most meaningful experiences for me is the enactment of those biblical persons who have experienced God's forgiving, healing, comforting, transforming love, enabling them to offer their lives to Christ, then attendees are encouraged to share their own personal transformations and experience others listening attentively with loving compassion. Cherry Arnold Verry, Imperial Beach (California) UMC

I hang a red ribbon over my front door as a symbol not just to remember Passover but also that my home is covered by the blood of Christ. Marty Webster, Asbury UMC, Princess Anne, Maryland