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Churches collaborate on worship services during Holy Week
Churches rotate hosting lunchtime ceremony
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Jesus, played by Pedro Suarez, carries the cross to his crucifixion during a Good Friday re-enactment of the Easter story known as the Stations of the Cross at Laurel Park last year. Many churches plan services throughout Holy Week, including communitywide events at lunchtime at five different churches next week.

Holy Week communitywide services

Monday: Grace Episcopal Church of Gainesville, 422 Brenau Ave. Speaker is the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham.

Tuesday: First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville. Speaker is the Rev. Mary Hemmer Demmler.

Wednesday: First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville. Seder-style meal served with speaker Jim Fleming of the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange. Call the church at 770-536-2341 to reserve a spot.

Thursday: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 404 Washington St., Gainesville. Speaker is Richard Chewning, the Gainesville district superintendent of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Friday: First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota, Gainesville. Speaker is Chris Henry, pastor of Shallowford Presbyterian Church.

All services are at noon and last about one hour.

Each church will host its own Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. For times, visit www.gracechurchgainesville.org, www.fbcgainesville.org, www.gfumc.com, www.st-paul-umc.org and fpcga.org.

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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