Different congregations, different ways to celebrate Holy Week

Published: Saturday, March 23 2013 9:15 a.m. MDT

The Thursday night service at Grace Baptist Church will include a discussion of the Jewish Passover, drawing symbolism from how the angel of death passed over the children of Israel for how "when God the Father sees the blood of Christ he passes over our sins," Pastor Johnson said.

"We will sing hymns concerning the cross," he continued. "I will end by urging our members to consider for the next three days the cross, to make it part of their daily meditation in the word of God to think about sin, sacrifice, and who Jesus is and what he has done. I will pray for them to focus on that for three days."

On Easter Sunday a "quiet, contemplative" communion service begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by a pot luck brunch.

"There's actually a philosophical reason for that," the pastor said. "We begin in the morning where we left off Thursday night, with a mood that is still quiet and somber. Then we eat and we fellowship and the excitement begins to build, so when we start our 10:30 Easter worship service we're ready to fully rejoice with songs that are uplifting and exciting and a sermon celebrating the resurrection."

It's all about building a memorial mood, from contemplative reflection to joyful exultation — but in a more internal way.

"We've never been a Baptist congregation that goes in for demonstrations," Pastor Johnson said, smiling.

At South Mountain Community Church in Draper, the approach by Pastor Paul Robie and his congregation is similar.

"Good Friday and Easter are the highest of high holy days for us," Pastor Robie said. Then he paused and leaned back in his office chair, chuckling at what he just said.

"That's pretty 'high church' kind of terminology for us," he said. "We're actually 'low church.' We're not liturgical at all."

Still, all three campuses of SMCC hold both Good Friday and Easter services — something that Pastor Robie says "is not super common" among Protestant churches.

"We believe that all of the promises of Christ were fulfilled on Good Friday when he died on the cross," he said. "Easter is the verification of that. You can say all you want that Jesus paid for mankind's sins and that he won a victory over sin, Satan and death. But you can't believe it unless it is verified, and the Easter story is what verifies all those claims."

The Good Friday service at SMCC is "very somber — almost like a funeral," the pastor said.

"You're going to an execution," he explained. "Everyone onstage is wearing black. The music is down and contemplative."

In addition to communion, Pastor Robie said, this year he is going to ask those in the congregation to write the sins that burden them on a piece of paper.

"They will be taking it to the cross," he said. "They are unburdening themselves from those sins that have placed them into bondage. We will see the exchange."

Whereas the Good Friday service is subdued, the Easter service is, in the pastor's words, "up, up, up!"

"Our Easter celebration is through the roof," he said — a significant statement given the height and width of the roof at SMCC's still-new facility in Draper. "We only use a choir once or twice a year, but this is one of those times. Music is a big part of our Easter service, and we make it bright and loud. We rejoice in every way we know how."

At the end of the service, Pastor Robie said he hopes people walk out the door feeling hope in Christ.

"Our hope is not wishful thinking," he said. "And it isn't just being hopeful. Christian hope is an attitude of confidence that what Christ promised has been delivered."

And that hope, said Pastor Jeff Beebe of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, is what Easter is all about.

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