Let the Alleluias Begin! A Photo Essay

It rained on Easter Sunday, gentle but insistent,
washing the air, watering the earth,
catching our attention.

The sun did not break through until late in the afternoon,
and somehow, it felt absolutely right for this particular Easter celebration day.

I have stepped back into leadership during this Lenten season,
enjoying the familiar rhythms of leading weekly communion services.
Services that are liturgical, yet at the same time, informal and friendly.

 Our congregation enjoys the aesthetic contributions of a small group
of thoughtful, talented women
who work with the preaching pastors to provide
a worship environment that encourages us to better
focus on the Word offered on a particular Sunday,
or throughout a season.
All during Lent this year,
we were reminded of the journey
by a simple purple drape on the cross
and a large urn,
filled with bare branches.

On Palm Sunday, those branches were visible above the array of color
provided by palm fronds and fabric.

On Maundy Thursday, they were visible on the back altar table,
behind the richly purple setting on the front table.

 On Good Friday, they disappeared,
along with every other usual object in the chancel —
the baptismal font and table removed,
the pulpit shrouded.
And on the side shelves, where greenery usually flourishes,
only these upended wooden boxes, draped
in dark fabric like the cross.

And then came Easter!

Those bare branches?
Now richly flowering.
The purple drape on the cross?
Replaced with shining white.
Those stark wooden boxes?
Filled to overflowing with
lilies, waving their brilliant faces across the front of the sanctuary.

 

 A glorious feast of white and gold,
the Christ candle tall and stately in the center of it all.

 Shaking rainwater off of coats and jackets, worshipers filled the sanctuary
earlier than usual.
Almost on cue, they began to settle into their seats,
quiet their conversations and ready themselves to worship.
We began where we left on Friday.
That night the plaintive sounds of  “Were You There?”
filled a dark room, and everyone left in silence.

On Sunday morning, the lights dimmed,
as the room filled once again with the sounds of that old song,
this time in the lilting soprano of a high school senior.

 As she sang, our pastor came slowly down the center aisle,
lit candle in hand,
arriving at the Christ candle as the song came to its end.

And as the Light is lit,
the alleluias begin — full lights,
drums, trumpets, oboe, voices and glorious, glorious music.
“Christ is Risen!”
“He is risen, indeed!”

I don’t know that I’ve ever been more grateful to say those words
than I was this year.
One of our founding members, now in her 90’s,
declared this the finest Easter celebration she has ever experienced.
And I’d have to agree with her.

One of the lovely events that added layers of meaning to the day
was the baptism of the infant daughter
of our former Director of Children’s Ministries.
Following the tradition of the early church
(and the contemporary Catholic church, as well),
we folded small Anastasia (whose name means ‘to live again’)
into the family of God on Easter Sunday, trusting that the work of the Holy Spirit
will be real in her life as she grows to claim
the name of Jesus for herself.

Jon and I read the words together,
asking the age-old questions of parents and people,

dripping the water on her small head,

offering words of blessing to this babe and her family.

And then,  Jon carried the church’s newest member
up and down the aisles, introducing her to her new family,
while we all sang, “Children of the Heavenly Father.”

Jon’s sermon was strong and true,
spoken from the heart with illustrations my visiting
grandsons could enjoy.

It was a magnificent way to begin the Easter Feast.

 And then our smaller-than-usual family group continued the feasting
gathered around our table, as the rain fell gently outside.

Our oldest daughter, her husband and three fine sons
joined my husband, my mother and me to break the fast of Lent
and celebrate the Risen Lord.

The salad course was first,
followed by barbecued salmon,
cheesy potatoes,
a divine quinoa side dish that Lisa has added to our repertoire,
and baked asparagus with a balsamic glaze.

Even our resident vegan ate enough to require a little resting between courses!

These three young men have had a more difficult life than most their age.
They lost their dad after a long, lingering and difficult illness.
It is good to see them happy as a family,
with Karl and Lisa giving good direction and
providing a living model of redemption in that home.
There can be resurrection in this life of ours —
we remember this truth every time we are with them.

 Fourteen-year-old Joel is our resident baker/chef and he created this
stunning coconut cake to cap off the day.
It tasted even better than it looks,
and it looks divine!

Poppy got a candle in his piece,
because he celebrated a birthday that was
pretty much lost in the shuffle of Holy Week activities.

The candle that was lit at the beginning of our worship,
was also lit in the center of our dining room table.
And as the afternoon clouds moved slowly away,
the blueness of sunshine-after-rain
seemed a fitting and celebratory way
to finish off the feast.

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed! 

Joining this longer than usual picture-essay with Michelle, Jen, Laura and Jennifer

 


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Comments

  1. He is risen indeed! And, seeing these pictures of your Easter/baptism celebration is making me weepy all over again.

    I can’t believe we didn’t sing Children of the Heavenly Father yesterday. And there I go again, getting weepy once more.

    A very good kind of weepy.

    • Was Patrick baptized yesterday??? And yes, this is a good kind of weepy and I have a hunch you really need a good kind of weepy about now. Thinking of you. Thanks for coming by, Nancy.

  2. You have a talented group of women dressing your chancel area each week. Being a visual learner myself, I can speak for the heart-touching effect of shape (in graceful, bare branches), color (in rich fabrics), light (of candle-glow), and texture (of rough-hewn wood). Even the artistic placement of items draws the eye in, and creates an atmosphere for reflection.

    Thank you also for inviting us into your home for Easter dinner! You, too, have a gift for dressing a table! Dinner looked scrumptious, the family warm (of heart), relaxed, and FULL!

    And one more thank you: for becoming a follower on my blog. I am deeply honored that you chose to do so.

    • We are blessed to have such artists in our midst, that is for sure. Most of this year’s work was done by Jeanne Heckman, assisted on Sunday by Trace Robinson. Our pastor, who is on sabbatical for three months, has a wife who is an artist and she is usually on deck each week as well. And yes, we were indeed FULL. Just finished leftovers for supper tonight. :>)

  3. A feast for the eyes as well as the spirit. What a blessing to know the risen Lord.

  4. He Is risen indeed!
    Amen to the love, to the light, to the joy you have shared

  5. I’ve thought before how worshipful your sanctuary is, and the additions for the Easter celebration were so beautiful and meaningful! Your own Easter table setting was also incredibly beautiful. Thank you for sharing these demonstrations of your love with us.

    We also had a baptism during the Easter service… and we sang “Child of Blessing”. 🙂

    • Thank you, Carol. I love our sanctuary – it’s relatively new, the culmination of a long-time plan, built while we were between senior pastors. This was the 7th Easter we’ve enjoyed in this space and each one feels richer than the last. We are grateful. That hymn is a new one to me, so I looked it up! What wonderful words – are these the ones?
      1
      Child of blessing, child of promise,
      love’s creation, love indeed!
      Fresh from God, refresh our spirits,
      into joy and laughter lead.

      2
      Child of joy, our dearest treasure,
      God’s you are, from God you came.
      Back to God we humbly give you,
      blessing you in Jesus’ name.

      3
      Child of God, your loving Parent,
      learn to know whose child you are.
      Grow to laugh and sing and worship,
      trust and love God more than all.

  6. Diana, what a beautiful celebration! You make me slow and see the goodness of God. How beautiful the creativity and the deep meaning here. Blessings friend.

  7. SO much beauty here! Your church is gorgeous in all its Holy Week phases. And your Easter dinner table – can I curl up on that pillowed window seat please???? I cannot believe a 14-year-old made that cake!!! Seriously? I tried to make lemon muffins for our Easter brunch and FORGOT the eggs – clearly baking is not one of my gifts! But Joel has the gift of baking for sure.

    • You can curl up on my window seat anytime you get yourself out here, my friend. Count on it. and yes, Joel is 14.5 and has been baking for several years. I gave him a beautiful baking cookbook from Williams Sonoma for Christmas – and he’s already made several fab things from that. He’s got a gift I don’t, that’s for sure. Give me a boxed cake mix and some store bought icing tubes and I can have fun. But from scratch? Nope. I thought I had posted a shot of his magnificent Buche de Noel from last Christmas but cannot find it. It was somethin’.

  8. A beautiful stage and decorations. But when I read, “Were You There” my heart really leapt. I do miss that song.

    Our “little” church isnt so small anymore. Young people by the hoards are coming through the doors to hear a clear, uncompromising gospel message. But those little things — those traditions are going away just because of the demands of accomodating people.

    On Easter, 1,000 people stood up for the first time to follow Christ. Simply amazing. But I still am drawn to the simple and the quiet. Is there room for both?

    • Good question, Dave. I don’t really think so, actually. Not sure that a congregation large enough to have 1000 people come forward (YIKES and hallelujah) could do the kinds of things we do and have them even be seen, much less contemplated. For me, the choice of settings will always be smaller, more intimate and more family like. But what I like is not for everyone. There is room for all kinds of worship settings, just like there is room for all kinds of crazy mixed-up folk, like me . . . and like you, too, I have a hunch. :>)

  9. You have a beautiful church family and a beautiful family. Thanks for sharing. Just lovely!

  10. Oh, friend. You know what your photo essays do to me. And for some reason, this one–this week of Eastertide–just does me in. I’m all weepy with Nancy. Beauty-full.

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