Churches recognize Holy Week

Published 5:14 pm Friday, March 18, 2016

By Chanel Bingham | Special to the Advertiser

Holy Week is the culmination of the Lenten season, which serves to remind believers of the great sacrifice and atonement made for our sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Holy Week, brings to the forefront the suffering and ignominy of Jesus and his glorious victory over sin and death.

It allows believers to contemplate the horror of our sin and all of its ramifications—in turn leading believers to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the hope found in Jesus Christ as they celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Holy Week brings into focus the foundation of the Christian faith, and it is the hope of Pastor Marc Hodges of Thorsby First Baptist Church, among others, that this focus will spill over into the everyday faith walk of Christian believers.

“I believe the reality of the resurrection of Jesus ought to affect every aspect of our lives all year round,” Hodges said. “The Apostle Paul said, ‘If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.’”

Many local churches will hold services to remember the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. These services provide an opportunity, both in liturgy and symbolism, to experience the transforming power of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and God’s great love for mankind.

While some churches have daily services throughout Holy Week, most churches plan special observances for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday)

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, the sixth Sunday in Lent.

Believers remember Jesus’ triumphal entrance into the city of Jerusalem as he rode on a donkey and crowds welcomed him as their Messiah and King. With the waving of palm branches and the spreading of their cloaks along the street, people shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David!”, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus’ entry by donkey is significant in that it serves to fulfil the prophecy spoken in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Palm Sunday is also referred to as Passion Sunday in recognition of the beginning of Holy Week and in remembrance of the painful suffering Christ experienced on his way to the cross. The word “passion” is derived from the Latin word meaning “to suffer.”

Many churches hold a special processional during their Palm Sunday service where adults and children alike depict the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem with the waving of palm branches and the singing of hymns.

Maundy Thursday (also called Holy Thursday)

Maundy Thursday is the day which commemorates the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ.

Typically, the last supper and communion are the focus of most liturgical churches, with some churches offering a foot washing service. This follows the example of Jesus as he washes the feet of each disciple during the last supper in an act of service and humility.

The English word mandate comes from the Latin word mandatum, which is where the term Maundy originates. It is most often translated as “commandment.” The Gospel of John tells of Jesus teaching the disciples a “new” commandment after their last supper together:

“A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Maudy Thursday also marks the beginning of the Triduum, also known as the Easter Triduum or the Paschal Triduum.

The Triduum is the last three days of Holy Week, beginning on the evening of Maundy Thursday and ending on the evening of Easter Sunday. The Triduum reminds believers of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Some churches follow the tradition of removing the alter coverings and decorations after the communion service of Maundy Thursday. The “stripping of the altar” is symbolic of the soldiers humiliating Jesus in the stripping of his garments.

Clanton First United Methodist Church will host a Maundy Thursday service in the main sanctuary. The service will include special music, a brief sermon and the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Good Friday (also called Holy Friday)

Good Friday services are held in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering, death and burial.

The Stations of the Cross are utilized in some churches to help worshippers gain a deeper sense of the pain and suffering Jesus underwent in his journey to the cross. Banners, pictures and paintings of the events leading up to and including the crucifixion of Christ are displayed throughout the church, and worshippers visit each station to pray.

The number of stations can vary depending on various traditions.

As part of Good Friday, some churches also hold a Tenebrae service. The word Tenebrae finds it roots in the Latin word meaning “darkness.”

The service is often conducted in candlelight, with all but the Christ candle being slowly extinguished. The Christ candle is carried out of the sanctuary as a representation of the death of Jesus. The service ends with a loud noise, which is symbolic of the sealing of the tomb of Christ.

Many worshippers use this day to fast and devote themselves to prayer.

“The holiest day for all Christians is Easter, but we can’t celebrate Easter without Good Friday,” said the Rev. Bill King of Trinity Episcopal Church.

King will preside over the Good Friday evening service where a liturgical drama will be performed, along with the entire reading of the Passion.

“Everything is in black to represent the death of Jesus, and everyone leaves in silence,” King said. “The only hymn we sing is ‘Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?’”

At noon, Clanton First United Methodist Church will host a Good Friday service and light lunch. Worshipers can come for the service and lunch and be back at work at 1 p.m.

Easter Sunday

Providence Baptist Church will host the Easter Sunrise Service beginning at 6 a.m. This the 35th year for the service, which includes a live, dramatic presentation of the life of Christ from his birth to his ascension.

Everyone is welcome. Those planning to attend are asked to dress warmly and bring a lawn chair. The service will be outside.

For more information, call (205) 755-4126. The church is located at 6197 County Road 97 in Clanton.

Clanton First United Methodist Church will host Easter celebration in all services beginning with the traditional at 8:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. and contemporary at 9:30 a.m.

The Seder Meal (A celebration of Passover)

Another integral part of Holy Week for many Christians is the Jewish celebration of Passover. Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites by God from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. The Seder meal is the focal point of this celebration. Each item served during the Seder meal plays a symbolic role in the retelling of the Exodus story. Many churches today hold a Seder service, which can be a very enriching part of Holy Week, as the symbolism parallels the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Clanton First United Methodist Church invites the community to a presentation of a model Seder meal given by Jews for Jesus at 6 p.m. March 19.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call CFUMC at (205) 755-0490 or visit

Holy Week is a time of reflection and prayer as believers remember the sacrifice Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary. Believers remember the suffering in his death, the darkness in his burial and the overwhelming joy in his resurrection. In his ultimate sacrifice, believers find the gift of salvation freely offered to all who will receive it by faith.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Editor’s note: Anyone associated with a Chilton County church that is holding Easter services or events is welcome to share information with The Clanton Advertiser, to be published during the coming week. Email information to