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Churches collaborate on worship services during Holy Week

Churches rotate hosting lunchtime ceremony

POSTED: April 12, 2014 1:00 a.m.
/The Times file photo

Roman garrison soldiers hoist the cross holding Jesus during the Stations of the Cross re-enactment of the Easter story at Laurel Park last year.

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A triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper with the 12 disciples, a trial and crucifixion followed by his death and burial and finally his resurrection all happened in a week’s time. Christians call it Holy Week.

“Traditionally it is a week for fasting and prayer and special devotions,” said the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham, rector of Grace Episcopal Church.

To remember the final week of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, five churches are joining forces with communitywide events to mark the occasion with lunchtime services Monday through Friday. The daily service rotates among the churches, including Grace Episcopal, First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Gainesville First United Methodist Church, St. Paul United Methodist Church off Washington Street and First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville.

“We all may have particular denominations that we focus on, but the great thing about Holy Week and Easter is it reminds us what is at the heart of what we do,” Higginbotham said.

The Rev. Calvin Haney, pastor of St. Paul UMC, explained in previous years the churches had communitywide events every Wednesday during the season of Lent. However, this year clergy members — who meet once a month over breakfast — discussed moving the services to Holy Week, and the change was approved.

“We know some people won’t like it, because people don’t like change,” Haney said. “We will try it and see how it goes. And as with most things, we will evaluate it and either continue it or do it during Lent.”

But the overall result is the same.

“We want to be ecumenical,” Haney said. “It means all of the denominations are working together instead of being separated.”

Each church will host a 30-minute service at noon followed by a 30-minute lunch. Each church is asking for a donation to help offset the cost, Haney said.

The only service deviating from the prescribed schedule will be Wednesday’s event at Gainesville First UMC. The 90-minute service will feature a biblical meal, which will resemble a dinner during Jesus’ time. Reservations are requested.

“It’s not a Seder meal, but it has elements of a Seder meal,” said the Rev. Kathy Lamon, pastor of congregational care at Gainesville First UMC.

Biblical archaeologist James “Jim” Fleming will lead the Passover-style meal. The founder of the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange will explain the dining customs during Jesus’ time, including greetings and gestures. Participants will also partake of food Jesus ate such as roasted chicken, lentil soup, dried fruits and nuts, olives, artichoke and hummus dip, roasted eggs and unleavened bread.

“As a church we wanted to do something extra special for the church and community as well as raise the profile of the museum,” Lamon said. “The whole thing about this is we not only want to talk about the Last Supper but represent it as contextually and historically as possible.

“And I think (the meal) will make the symbolization of the Last Supper of Jesus more real and relevant as (people) go through Holy Week.”


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