Local churches prepare for Easter

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

On the cusp of Holy Week, local churches have a variety of plans to remember the last days and resurrection of Christ.

“It’s an opportunity for Christians to remember the significance of the sacrifice that Christ made for us and to walk with him during his last hours and to finally celebrate the risen Christ,” said First United Methodist Church Choir Director Jan Smartnick.

St. Helen Catholic Church secretary Pita Baca said the church’s traditional services remind the congregation of Jesus’ importance in life.

Some churches start the celebrations this weekend on Palm Sunday. Smartnick said her church’s service moves from a joyful celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to a somber mood in preparation for Holy Week.

Sunday, First Baptist Church is holding the Easter cantata “It Is Finished,” which depicts the resurrection of Christ. Minister of Music Wayne Anderson said two people will narrate, and the choir will perform contemporary songs and old hymn arrangements.

Pastor Dave McFadden has gathered video clips and recorded them with professional accompaniment.

“It’s very uplifting, very encouraging,” Anderson said of the cantata, adding that people who believe in Christ and have accepted him intend to rise from the dead someday as Jesus did.

On Maundy Thursday, the Methodist church and St. Helen Catholic Church have services depicting the events at Jesus’ last meal with his followers. The Methodist service includes Communion.

“It’ll be a time of quiet reflection,” Smartnick said.

For St. Helen’s, Baca said Father Jim McGowan would re-enact Christ washing his disciples’ feet with a group from the congregation. On Good Friday, St. Helen’s has a service of Adoration of the Cross.

The Methodist Good Friday service includes remembering Jesus’ last words before his crucifixion and congregational participation.

Saturday night, the Catholic church holds an Easter vigil with such events as blessing of holy oils and lighting the church with candles.

“It’s usually a long prayer service, with several readings and, of course, the passion of Christ,” Baca said.

On Easter Sunday, the Methodist church begins with a sunrise service.

“It’s a brief informal service to rejoice in the risen Savior,” Smartnick said.

Afterwards, the United Methodist Men are offering a pancake breakfast, with admission being a donation for missions. The church’s Easter service follows, beginning with a bell procession and trumpet fanfare.

St. Helen’s and First Baptist are among other churches that have an Easter service.

The Sunday after Easter, a re-enactment of the conversation between the resurrected Christ and his doubting disciple, Thomas, is scheduled at the Methodist church’s 9:30 a.m. service.

Those services are open to the community.