A number of United Methodist Churches are ensuring that the reason of the Easter season does not get lost in the midst of egg hunts, colorful candy-filled baskets and bunny visits.
Instead, congregations are talking about the resurrection in new ways and even different places, imprinting the story on greater numbers and even the youngest disciples.
At FUMC, Longview associate pastor the Rev. Becca Newcomb and children’s director Loren Buchanan have created a way to teach their smallest churchgoers with “Holy Week in an Eggshell.”
“We sometimes skip all of Holy Week in order to make sure kids get to the candy on Easter,” Newcomb said. “And we sometimes discount the ability of kids to learn difficult but important faith concepts.”
Buchanan added that a lot of children did not know the story of Holy Week. “We, as a church, do such a great job at Christmas,” she said. “It’s easy for kids to relate to a story of a baby. We wanted to develop something age appropriate for kids to truly understand what Easter is all about.”
The result is for the congregation is rolling out a multi-sensory, interactive learning experience, teaching children about Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
“We’ll have something all kids can grasp,” Buchanan said. “We’ll plant the seeds. Children will have questions to ask their parents on the car ride home or during the next Sunday’s services. Those conversations will turn into teaching.”
Newcomb said parents would be ready to be honest and available to guide their children. “There’s something really beautiful that happens when we talk to our kids about faith,” she said. “We just want to open that door.”
The neighboring Winterfield UMC will join in the celebration, which will be held on Saturday, April 13.
“I hope this takes root in our community and allows our kids to grow as disciples of Christ,” Newcomb said.
In Houston, the meaning of Easter will be discussed and debated over a pint of local beer at St. Arnold’s Brewing Company. The downtown beer hall will open its doors to The Story, a congregation of St. Luke’s UMC.
The Rev. Eric Huffman will lead his usual morning sermons and then head to the brewery for a more conversational event in the evening. The pastor will present a skeptical point of view and ask participants to reexamine the miracle.
“If the resurrection is a true, historical event, then everything we’re anxious about, afraid of, everything that holds us down and carries us into despair, pales in comparison to the hope and love of God,” Rev. Huffman said. “The resurrection changes everything, because there is a God concerned for us and his plans will come to fruition.”
To the west of downtown Houston, Mercy Street, located within Chapelwood UMC, is planning a unique sermon series, “Light it Up: Breaking Through Darkness” during Lent.
The Rev. Melissa Maher explained that each week, various spiritual practices will be explored — from confession and prayer to alms and fasting. Mercy Street largely includes those recovering from 12-step programs, or individuals in treatment or released from prison.
“God’s presence is in the darkness as well,” Maher said.
By sharing spiritual practices, the church will teach about resilience and perseverance.
“Not only will we teach these practices, but we hope folks will engage their relationship with God in new ways,” she said.