Sharing Holy Week in New Ways
Holy Week was extra special this year, for different reasons, for members and residents from the areas near Bedias UMC in the West District all the way to Jasper UMC in the East District. Holy Week also brought daily devotionals from Bishop Janice Huie to the email boxes of over 20,000 Methodists across Texas.
The opposite of a sequel, some might define a prequel as a work that forms part of a back-story to the preceding work. In the context of Holy Week, for example, these events could help explain the background of Easter, enhancing the understanding of the ‘original’ event.
Having done a Stations of the Cross event the last three years to enrich the experience of Holy Week, Rev. Fred Willis of First UMC, Jasper, issued a new challenge to his artistically gifted congregation this year. “As a prequel to Easter, I challenged our Fine Arts committee to create an addition -- do our own version of the Via Dolorosa... and WOW, did they come out great!” he says. “During Holy Week this year, our Stations of the Cross celebrated an ancient spiritual practice designed to dramatize the passion of Jesus Christ, making it come alive for us through art with the focus on Good Friday.”
For the participating artists of First UMC, Jasper, each art piece is their interpretation of scriptures telling of specific moments in Christ’s journey from his accusation to his burial -- the time on Good Friday traditionally known as the Passion of the Christ. Mandy Seybold, her husband and two grade-school-age children did their artwork together, depicting Judas receiving the silver to betray Christ. “We are in awe each year we come,” says Mandy. “When they mentioned new Stations we jumped at the opportunity to be part of it. We love a challenge and wanted it to be a project for our whole family to work on and enjoy. We wanted to show our kids that we can work together to produce our depiction and we were all pleased with the final product.”
“I have been calling our seven new additions Excerpts from Holy Week ,” Fred explains, “and
it has been an outstanding outreach opportunity for area students and adults alike.”
“Each year I admire the paintings more,” says Jasper member Bonnie Walker, “and the talent of each artist. I really thought I would tire of the Stations, but I have not. From working the Stations, our response from the community was much better this year than last year. I am proud to be one of the artists and to be given the opportunity to exhibit my art.”
Adds Fred, “As far as I know, we are the first church doing all the artwork themselves. This year we added those days prior to Good Friday, including the betrayal of Jesus. Since we had the Stations up for the entirety of Holy Week, it gave us the idea to begin to lead you through the whole story… from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday and all the way to the Passion.” His vision for next year: add the final seven, starting on Palm Sunday.
Artist Dana Riggins adds, “Being a part of this was awe inspiring not only because you create a piece of art that depicts a moment in Christ's walk to the cross, but you get to see it as part of a variety of art mediums that are vastly different but yet tell a beautiful cohesive story. As far as the new addition depicting Holy Week events, I was immediately drawn to the verse referencing the disciples’ denial of Jesus. The image of this rooster crowing was so vivid in my mind that I could almost hear it crowing...amazing that something so commonplace as a rooster crowing would be so meaningful and devastating.”
This experience prompted Jean Humphrey, who chairs worship for First UMC, Jasper, to recall a vivid memory from her childhood. “Thumbing through my mother's Bible, I was inspired by the religious paintings I found there,” shares Jean. “I dreamed of one day painting a portrait of Christ or other Biblical characters as Block or Michelangelo could paint. Block's skill with light and shadow was such an inspiration. When Fred asked the artists in our congregation to paint Stations of the Cross, I was so excited and was the first to pick up a canvas in the church office. Three seasons later, I am still excited to be a part and looking forward to the next season's Stations.” Adds Jean, “Our pastor has given artists an opportunity to preach the gospel of hope and life to persons we would never have a chance to see -- through art. To share by an ordinary means an extraordinary message is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thanks to the vision of my pastor, and my church's desire to reach out to this hurting generation, I am proud to be a part of the Stations of the Cross.”
Holy Week at Bedias UMC
For Rev. Ann Worrell, Palm Sunday at Bedias UMC was amazing this year. Some 13 brothers and sisters were baptized, including three adults making their profession of faith. Another person also joined the church by transfer of their membership from another denomination. “Four families had asked to be baptized and have their children baptized within a couple of weeks of each other, making Palm Sunday a gloriously beautiful day," Ann shares. "Our small church has been blessed beyond measure. This is a very small country church
with an average attendance of about 35 to 40,
so we are overjoyed!”
Investing in the Young
Adds Ann, “I would like to point out that this was not the result of training classes and a mass baptism. Instead, this was the result of four families who all felt led to this at the same time. Of course, that means we now need to find a room for a children's Sunday School class.”
Over 20,000 United Methodists across the Texas Annual Conference received daily video devotionals featuring special Holy Week messages from Bishop Huie. Response was overwhelmingly positive from recipients such as Carol Hayes. Notes Carol, “Thank you for this devotional series. I must confess I didn't take the time to watch the first couple of days, but when I finally did, I was hooked. Bishop Huie has an excellent teaching style for delivering such meaningful messages.”
Mary Magnusson adds, “These devotionals have been a blessed way to start the day. I have been sending them to the members of the study of John’s Gospel that I have been leading. The class members expressed to me how much they appreciate the Bishop sharing these words with us.”
Barbara Farris of Groves First UMC says, “I was excited to share the videos with the children, youth, and adult classes during Holy Week. These were very powerful words on handling fear -- that all ages face.”
“The Holy Week devotionals seemed to make my day better,” says Donna Dean Hutcherson.
Terry Weber-Rodriguez appreciated these messages in yet another way. “As one of the flock, who has been scattered afar, the devotionals not only feed me spiritually but also help me to still feel connected to my Conference.”
The devotionals are still available at txcumc.org/holyweek2014 if you would like to see them.