Living the Easter story
- Christina Lent
- The Times - Features
Members of Bethel Congregational Church of Christ in Beaverton work hard to bring the Easter story to life
The Easter story was brought to life during Holy Week at Bethel Congregational Church of Christ in Beaverton.
It began with a lively celebration on Palm Sunday, continued with a reenactment of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, observed Good Friday with a reflective labyrinth walk, marked Easter Eve with an interactive 'Service of Light, Word and Water' and culminated with an Easter Sunday service celebrating the Resurrection.
'My primary goal for Holy Week was to create opportunities for our community to experience the heights and depths of Jesus' pilgrimage during the last days of his earthly life,' said the Rev. David Randall-Bodman.
'The power of Easter morning is greatly enhanced when we actually encounter with our heads and hearts the depth of Christ's love for humanity and his willingness to remain faithful to the mission of revealing God's love regardless of the consequences.
'God's radical love for us at the end of the story - Resurrection - is much more clearly revealed, and I believe assimilated into our faith journeys if we follow the steps Jesus took to get there.'
With that goal in mind, the Bethel team set out to make each step of the Holy Week journey special with unique experiences to mark every service.
From the placement of a carpenter nail in each worshiper's palm following the sacrament of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday to the Good Friday Labyrinth created out of canned foods that would be donated to the Oregon Food Bank, every aspect of worship was filled with meaning.
The nail reminded people of the forthcoming sacrifice, while the nearly 2,000 cans of food outlining the labyrinth represented 'food for thought, food for the journey and food for the world.'
While looking into new ways to convey the old story, the Beaverton church blended traditions with creative twists that allowed those in attendance to experience the Easter journey in a way that resonated in their lives.
'Our goal is to have our community identify with the life of Jesus through his triumph which then led to disappointment, his fellowship which led to betrayal, and ultimately his abandonment and death which led to the experience of the power of hope and new life,' said Stephen Galvan, Bethel's director of music.
Part of the challenge, Randall-Bodman added was 'maintaining the tension of the Passion narrative without resolving it too quickly.'
By marking each chapter in the story, the congregation was invited to take time to reflect and connect with others in the community.
'Easter is a celebration of God's grace and profound love for us,' Randall-Bodman said during the Easter Eve service.
Perhaps the most visible symbol used to illustrate that love was a cross in the church's sanctuary that transformed throughout the week as each new chapter of the story unfolded.
The cross was made out of the trunks of the church's Christmas trees that were nailed together on Palm Sunday.
On Maundy Thursday it was draped in black and a crown of thorns was placed on it.
At the conclusion of the Easter Sunday service, the cross was completely covered with vivid spring flowers children had attached to it before and during the service.
'The cross is transformed by following the journey of Jesus -birth, living, death and new life - and in a way it echoes our own spiritual pilgrimage,' Galvan said.
As Bethel Congregational Church continues along its spiritual pilgrimage following its Easter celebration, church leaders took time to reflect on Holy Week and share their hopes.
'We hope for a new perspective on living and encountering with the divine,' Galvan said.
He also hopes that those who accompanied Bethel along its Easter journey walked away with a renewed 'dedication to making the world a better place for everyone.'