Craig congregations will celebrate Easter this year with a 59-hour prayer vigil, "bridegroom services" recognizing Christ's passion and sunrise services recognizing his resurrection.
"Easter is the reason we have church on Sundays. The pillar of the Christian church is the resurrection," said Pastor Brian Haynes of the First Baptist Church.
Like many local churches, the Baptists will celebrate Easter with a sunrise service at 8:30 a.m., followed by a pancake breakfast and a second worship service at 10:30 a.m. Other churches have scheduled events for the entire week leading up to Easter.
Few congregations spend more time celebrating Easter than the congregation of St. John's Greek Orthodox Church. The church has scheduled events to recognize most of the events that took place during the week before Jesus was crucified.
"We want people to be aware of what Christ went through, but don't focus on the crucifixion as much as the resurrection," said Jeannie Glimidakis, St. John's secretary.
This morning at 10 a.m., the church kicks off Easter week with a service to recognize how Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. The first of three bridegroom services will be held at 7 p.m. April 4 to commemorate Jesus' suffering during the passion.
Much of the Greek Orthodox ceremonies will follow old church tradition. On Holy Thursday, the day Jesus carried the cross through town, a wooden Jesus will be hung on the cross and a wreath of flowers will be placed on his head, in place of a crown of thorns.
During a Royal Hours service Friday morning, the congregation will observe the hours leading up to the crucifixion. The ladies of the church will decorate a metal funeral bier set on a table in the church. The congregation will sing songs of lamentation, then four men will carry the bier around the church. The wooden Christ will be taken off the cross, and the priest will place a cloth in the bier.
Those who attend Saturday's midnight resurrection service are asked to bring one dozen hardboiled red eggs along. According to Greek Orthodox tradition, the egg represents the tomb and the red represents Jesus' blood. Christians turn to one another, say "Christ is risen," crack their egg against their neighbors, and the neighbor answers, "Truly he is." The cracking of the egg represents Christ's defeat of the tomb, Glimidakis said.
The First Congregational Church traditionally celebrates Easter with a 59-hour prayer vigil, said Donna Lougee, church secretary.
In the garden before his arrest, Jesus told the disciples to stay awake and pray, but they failed and fell asleep. In remembrance of his request of his disciples, the Congregationalists schedule prayer times so that someone is awake and praying in the sanctuary for the entire 59 hours leading up to Easter morning.
Lougee said they have always managed to keep someone in the sanctuary for the entire vigil, and during previous years she has come in at 4 a.m. to pray.
At St. Mark's Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper, Pastor Tom White will wash the feet of his congregation, as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The idea, White said, is to follow Jesus' example and show that he is not too good to do what Jesus did.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will hold Easter services for each ward on Easter Sunday. Three or four church members will speak on Jesus' resurrection. Although some people are under the mistaken impression that the Mormons only believe Jesus was a prophet, Mormons actually recognize Jesus as the Son of God and believe he was resurrected, said Lynn Herring of the First Ward.
"Easter is a very sacred service for us. We believe in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of his death and his resurrection, life is eternal through him," Herring said.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.