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Worship displays provide focal point during Lent

A wooden cross surrounded by symbols served as a worship focal point at Phillips (Wis.) United Methodist Church from Ash Wednesday through Easter in 2006.

Carolyn Mealman, a lay leader, designed a series of eight worship displays with different symbols each week. She also wrote explanations of the symbols for the church bulletin. "I think they added quite a bit," said the Rev. Sandra Hamilton, pastor.

On Ash Wednesday, worshipers wrote forgiveness requests on paper crosses and attached them to the cross, which displayed a crown of thorns. Explanations of the symbols were included in the bulletin for each worship service.

Here are other details, including explanations of the symbols:

First Sunday of Lent: Added green vines and grape clusters. Hung a purple cloth on the upper cross bar.

Bulletin explanation: In John 15:5, Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches," so we add green vines and grape clusters, the fruit of those who abide in Christ through the spirit of truth. The purple cloth signifies penitence.

Second Sunday: Added three small tables to display a money bag with silver, an old lantern, a rope and a sword.

Bulletin explanation: In John 18, Judas led soldiers and officials of the chief priests and Pharisees to a meeting place carrying torches, lanterns and weapons to arrest Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Third Sunday: Added a club, chain, rocks and a picture of a crowing rooster to the tables.

Bulletin explanation: These weapons are shown as signs of torture and cruelty. A crowing rooster symbolizes Peter's denial.

Fourth Sunday: Added three large nails, a sponge and wine vinegar.

Bulletin explanation: When Jesus was thirsty on the cross, a sponge was soaked with wine vinegar and lifted to his lips. Three nails were used to hang the body of our Lord.

Fifth Sunday: Added a large bowl and pitcher to the display.

Bulletin explanation: The bowl and pitcher represent the act of Pilate, as he washed his hands of the guilt of condemnation for himself and placed it on the people.

Palm Sunday: Removed the crown of thorns and added palm branches.

Bulletin explanation: For his victorious entry into Jerusalem, the crown of thorns is removed, and palm branches are added.

Maundy Thursday/Good Friday: Replaced the purple cloth with black cloth; returned the crown of thorns; added a chalice, bread and grape juice.

Bulletin explanation: A chalice bread and grape juice symbolize the Last Super. The black cloth symbolizes darkness, sorrow and death.

Easter Sunday: Removed all items except for vines and grapes. Added a white cloth, crown, butterfly, lilies, peacock feathers, a white dove and Easter eggs.

Bulletin explanation: As the stone is rolled away, Christ has risen and reigns victorious evermore in a heavenly home into the Holy Spirit as represented by a white dove. All of our sins are forgiven and new life is ours: as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and the peacock shed its feathers to grow more beautiful ones. The Easter lily grown from the dormant bulb into new life. We show the white cloth of purity and perfection and the regal crown of a king.

* * * * *

At a glance

Phillips United Methodist Church

115 Center Avenue
Phillips, WI 54555-1210

(715) 339-3120

Pastor: Rev. Sandra Hamilton

Average attendance: 46

Wisconsin Annual Conference


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