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Oxford City Council, You’re a Bunch of Idiots

Get this:

Through centuries and across countries, it has remained a staple of traditional Easter celebrations. 

But that rich history, it seems, has been rather lost on one council bureaucrat – who forced a church to cancel its Passion play because he apparently thought it was a sex show.

The performance, telling the story of the crucifixion of Christ, had been planned for Good Friday by St Stephen’s House Theological College and Saints Mary and John Church in Oxford.

That was until an official at the local Labour council refused to rubber-stamp the event, forcing the church to scrap it at short notice. 

Oxford City Council banned the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ…wrongly believing the play was a sex show and could cause ‘grave offence’

Actors had planned to walk through the streets of Oxford on Friday to re-enact the lead up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has they had done previously in 2012.

The worker in question apparently did not know that a Passion play was a religious affair – and thought it was an obscene production.

Last night ministers, MPs and religious groups criticised the ‘unbelievable’ actions of Oxford City Council, saying it showed Christians were becoming increasingly marginalised in society.

A Passion play is a dramatic performance of the Passion of Christ, depicting the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus. The name comes from the Latin verb ‘pati’, meaning ‘to suffer’.

The Oxford performance was previously held in 2012, without a licence, when an audience of some 200 watched Mischa Richards, playing Jesus, haul a wooden cross from Cowley Road Methodist church to Saints Mary and John. 

This year, the organisers decided to stage a repeat, but were told they must apply for a council licence – and were astonished when they were turned down.

A church source told MailOnline: ‘A council official didn’t read the paperwork properly and didn’t realise it was a religious play, so told us we needed an events licence when we didn’t.

‘If they’d told us 24 hours earlier, we would have had time to apply for and get one, but we ran out of time. It’s frustrating because we didn’t need one in any case – they just hadn’t read what the play was about.’

SS Mary and John vicar, Adam Romanis, said: ‘It’s very upsetting because so many people were looking forward to it.

‘Someone said to me: “You can’t hold a crucifixion these days without a licence”.’


April Fools for Christ

Michael Ruffin seems to have nailed the perfect intersection between April Fools Day and Holy Week.

Today is April 1st and thus April Fools’ Day. The extensive research I did on the subject (five minutes looking at a web site or two) revealed that the origins of the day are uncertain. The roots of the day probably lie in various pagan observances that were marked by such jocularities as dressing in costumes and playing pranks. While some efforts have been made in the past to Christianize the day, there’s really no connection. And I’m not advocating for one.

Still, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a day when we remind ourselves that Almighty God did some mighty foolish things in carrying out his plan of salvation. They were foolish, that is, as the world reckons foolishness. He chose to have his Son come to earth to live as one of us. He had his Son leave his unrestricted existence to take on the limitations of human life. He had him leave his heavenly home where he was adored by angels to come to earth where he would be despised and rejected by people. He had him live a life in which he showed compassion and love and acceptance to the worst outcasts of his the society in which he lived. The Father chose to have his Son give his life as a ransom for undeserving and largely ungrateful humanity. He chose the Cross as the way for his Son.

So maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a day to commemorate the foolish things that God did in Jesus to bring about his plan of salvation. Wait, we do have such a day. It’s called Good Friday.

Read it all.

Devotional Resources for Holy Week

Courtesy of some guy at Georgetown College.

I especially like the “Scripture-oriented version” of the Stations of the Cross, based on those celebrated by Pope John Paul II nearly twenty years ago.

Crown Him the Lord of Grace

I love Mark D. Robert’s proposed new verse for “Crown Him with Many Crowns”! It is simply beautiful:

Crown Him the Lord of grace,
Messiah, chosen king,
Called as God’s servant to embrace
The way of suffering.
A thorny wreath of pain,
Pressed down upon his brow,
Foretells the time when he shall reign,
And every knee shall bow.

A perfect addition when singing this hymn during Holy Week and at other times when it is deemed worth remembering that the only crown Jesus ever actually wore was a crown of thorns.

Singing Owl on Holy Saturday

The Darkness.”

Cartledge on Good Friday

That Awkward Name.”

Traces of the Earliest Christian Liturgy

It is universally agreed that the earliest forms of Christian worship were integrally related to the congregation’s communal meal or agape. This is certainly the case with the fullest description of worship from the New Testament (1 Cor 11-14), from the Didache (ca. 100), and from Pliny’s Letter to Trajan (ca. 111). Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, gave this account of interrogations he conducted with certain lapsed Christians:

They stated that the sum total of their error or misjudgment, had been coming to a meeting on a given day before dawn, and singing responsively a hymn to Christ as to God, swearing with a holy oath not to commit any crime, never to steal or commit robbery, commit adultery, fail a sworn agreement or refuse to return a sum left in trust. When all this was finished, it was their custom to go their separate ways, and later re-assemble to take food of an ordinary and simple kind. But after my edict which forbids all political societies, they did in fact give this up (Epistle 96).

This account, extracted from informants who had abandoned their Christian faith as long as twenty years previously (that is, in the early 90s), indicates two forms of Christian gathering. First, in the early morning there was some sort of service for prayer and moral instruction. Second, the church re-convened in the evening for a communal meal. It is likely that the first meeting took place early on the Sabbath. By Jewish liturgical reckoning, since the agape began after sundown, it fell on “the first day of the week” (Ac 20:7). The pre-dawn meeting may well have been patterned on the Jewish synagogue service. The distinctive element in Christian worship was the conduct of their religious meal.

Most of the earliest post-biblical descriptions of Christian worship, however, describe a liturgy in which the actual meal is absent. According to Justin Martyr’s First Apology (ca. 150), the Christian gathering began with Scripture reading, a sermon, and prayer. Then, bread and wine were brought forward, prayed over by the “president” of the community, and distributed to the faithful. Much is made of the Eucharistic bread and cup, but the agape is nowhere to be found. Sometime between Pliny and Justin, the Eucharist became separated from the fellowship meal and attached to the morning prayer service.The same basic skeleton is at the heart of liturgical worship even today. And of course, it is likely that what Justin described was customary in Rome, and possibly elsewhere, several decades before he wrote.

Traces of earlier patterns, where Christians gathered around a dinner table for worship, are rare and often subject to diverse interpretations. One must therefore proceed with due humility in attempting to reconstruct the earliest Christian meal-liturgies. There are no fully-developed descriptions of such rites, although early sources such as the Didache — and indeed the New Testament itself — provide important clues as to the general structure. Other clues are present in alternative traditions which seem to preserve older patters that eventually fell out of use. These liturgies are “alternative” only in that they ceased to be mainstream, continuing in the church’s memory only as the idiosyncracies of small, perhaps remote populations or as reminiscences of earlier times.

The Symposium and the Seder

Both Christian and Jewish meal rituals developed from the ancient Greco-Roman symposium, literally “drinking party.” The original symposium had a two-part structure. First came the meal, introduced by a blessing of the bread. Then came the symposium proper, the after-dinner entertainment introduced by a blessing of wine. Though there were certainly immoral excesses, condemned as much by pagan moralists as by Christians, often the entertainment consisted simply of conversation on traditional philosophical themes.

This basic structure of bread (meal)-wine (interaction) is perhaps implied by the organization of Paul’s instructions concerning Chrisian worship in 1 Corinthians 11-14:

  • 11:2-16: Propriety in “praying and prophesying” (at the bread blessing?)
  • 11:17-34: Propriety during the meal itself
  • 12:1-14:40: Propriety during the “symposium”

Guests may have greeted each other with a kiss upon arriving at the banquet. The custom of a kiss before a meal is seen, for example, in Luke 7:45 (where its omission is considered a great insult). Early on, the kiss was understood to be an act of reconciliation with one’s brothers and sisters before the offering as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 5:24. The Didache expresses a similar sentiment when it enjoins worshipers to confess their faults to one another before celebrating the Eucharist so that their sacrifice may be pure (Did 14:1).

Christian liturgy ultimately developed from the Greco-Roman symposium as filtered through the banquet customs of Second Temple Judaism. The Passover Seder is of particular importance, although other communal Jewish meals, including the weekly Sabbath banquets, would have certainly exerted an influence on Christian patterns. The Seder provides an important benchmark precisely because there is sufficient information to reconstruct the broad outlines of Christian observance of the Pascha (Easter) in the mid-second century.

Dennis E. Smith’s research (From Symposium to Eucharist [Fortress, 2003] 147-150) suggests that the earliest form of Passover Seder would have been in basic conformity to the wider Greco-Roman banquet pattern. In its most primitive form, its liturgy would probably have been something like this:

The Appetizer Course

  • Hand-washing (one hand only)
  • Blessing of the wine and the day (kiddush) over the first cup
  • Appetizers: greens, bitter herbs, and fruit pur?©e (charoset)

The Main Course

  • Hand-washing (both hands)
  • A blessing spoken over the unleavened bread
  • The Passover meal itself

The “Symposium”

  • The grace after the meal (birkat ha-mazon) spoken over the second cup
  • The Haggadah or “table Talk,” centered on the Exodus story
  • Chanting of the Hallel Psalms (Pss 113-118)

Later alterations or elaborations to this basic pattern were made until the liturgy began to approximate its current form sometime in the second century. Three significant changes should be noted. First, two additional cups of wine were added to the symposium, one dividing the Hallel into two halves and the other at the conclusion of the Hallel. Second, the grace after the meal was moved from the second cup to the third. Finally, the “table talk” was repositioned before the meal rather than after.

The Quartodeciman Pascha

When compared with the Christian paschal celebration in the mid-second century, we see how his pattern became adapted for Eucharistic worship. Apparently, Christians preserved the link between agape and Eucharist at the special occasion of Pascha even when they allowed the two observances to diverge generally. The outlines of the paschal feast may be discerned from the practice of the Quartodecimans. These second-century dissenters preserved the original date of Easter, the fourteenth of the Jewish month of Nisan (quartodecim is Latin for “fourteenth”) but they were not distinctive in their manner of observance.

In the Epistle of the Apostles 15 (ca. 150), we read Jesus’ own imagined instructions to the disciples regarding how to celebrate the Pascha:

After I return to my Father you are to remember my death whenever Pascha comes about. Then will one of you be thrown into prison on account of my name, and will be in trouble and sorrow because he is in prison while you are keeping Pascha, and he is not keeping the festivity. For I shall send my power in the form of my angel and the gates of the prison shall be opened. He will come out and will watch with you and remain until the cock crows, when you will have completed my agape and my commemoration, and he will be thrown once again into prison as witness to me, until he comes out and proclaims as I have commanded. So we said to him: “Lord, have you not fulfilled the Pascha? Is it necessary that we should take the cup and drink it again?” He replied “It is indeed necessary, until I return with those who died for me.”

In other words, Easter worship consisted in its most basic form of (1) a night vigil lasting until the early morning, (2) an agape meal, including (3) the “commemoration” of Christ: the Eucharist. It is not entirely clear whether the Eucharist would have come before or after the meal. A formal meal in the ancient world concluded with a dessert, which in the Seder was replaced by a final piece of bread known as the aphikoman. If this morsel were intended to represent the presence of the Messiah (see Melito of Sardis, On Pascha), it would not be a great leap to conceive of this as Eucharistic bread once the Seder became Christianized. This would suggest the pattern was agape-then-Eucharist. This would also account for the church’s early adoption of the customary liturgical dialogue preceding the prayer after meals as a prelude to its Eucharistic prayer.

On the other hand, the weight of evidence overall suggests the Eucharistic action would have come before the meal. In the Didache, which predates the Quartodeciman sources, the blessings of the cup and the bread come before the communal meal, not after.

Devotional and theological reasons might be advanced for either option. For instance, a desire to fast before Communion would imply the necessity of placing the Eucharist before the agape. Likewise, having Communion first might have been intended to set a properly worshipful tone for the entire evening. Conversely, in some congregations the Eucharist may have come last so as to end the evening on a high note. Furthermore, If the meal customarily began before sunset on Saturdays, it may have been desirable to wait until the end of the meal — after dark — in order to celebrate the Eucharist on what would then be “the first day of the week.” Clearly, different customs arose in different localities, which were only later harmonized with each other into a more or less uniform liturgical practice.

A Eucharistic Agape

Let us concentrate on the Eucharist-first pattern, simply because it eventually became the most popular option. By filling in some of the details by way of other sources we may propose the following outline for the paschal vigil:

  • Scripture Readings (the Exodus narrative, and possibly the Old Testament prophets)
  • “Table Talk”
  • Eucharist
  • Agape Meal
  • Psalmody (the Hallel Psalms?)

In both Judaism and Christianity, the “table talk” shifted to a position before the meal — and the fact that both communities made the same shift suggests that the relocation first occurred quite early. In the Jewish Seder, it came between the appetizer and the main course. Since the Christian Pascha came at the end of a fast, the appetizer course was omitted, and the “table talk” became the first element in the whole observance. It seems likely, however, that the entire liturgy still took place around the dining room table.

The connections with Justin’s liturgy are hard to miss. The service begins with reading and discussing scripture and moves on to the Eucharist. But in Justin’s description of the normal Sunday ritual, the meal had fallen away.In this light, mention should also be made of an intriguing reminiscence from John Chrysostom (4th century). Chrysostom related a tradition that, in the earliest years of the church, Christians regularly held a fellowship meal after worship. He wrote,

The faithful, after hearing the teaching, after the prayers and the communion of the sacraments, when the assembly was now over, did not leave at once for their homes, but the wealthy and well-off brought food and provender from their homes, called the poor, and offered communal tables, communal dinners, and communal banquets inside the church itself. In this way, the love between them was strengthened by the sharing of the table and by the piety exuded by the place and on all sides. As a result, they were on the one hand happy, and on the other greatly benefitted. Indeed, the poor took great comfort and the wealthy won the favor both of the people who ate and of God, for whom they did all these things. And having received much divine grace, they returned to their homes. (Homily 27 on 1 Cor 11:17)

The pattern is virtually the same: scripture teaching, corporate prayers, Eucharist, then a meal.

Next: Later Developments

technorati tags: agape, communion, eucharist, lord’s supper, pascha, quartodeciman

Can You Get to Easter from Here?

We usually go to Wayne County, Kentucky for Memorial Day because it always falls near my mother-in-law’s birthday. That means we usually go around to cemeteries to decorate the grave markers of some of Connie’s kin, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, and her two older sisters who both died in infancy.

Taylor’s Grove and Pleasant Hill Cemeteries are located in Hidalgo and Sunnybrook, Kentucky, respectively. They’re not near anything in particular, although I think Hidalgo is a suburb of Windy. You can’t get to Taylor’s Grove Baptist Church and its cemetery without going through Hidalgo, and you can’t get to Hidalgo without going through Windy. Our Memorial Day decoration pilgrimage thus takes us down the same roads every year. You take the state highway out of Monticello toward Albany, then turn off at the signpost, then look for the landmarks Granny knows as clearly as she knows her own name and points out to you as you drive and try to keep from getting carsick on those twisting one-lane roads. Finally you leave the paved road, turn onto the gravel, and eventually find a parking place on the grass as close to the cemetery as you can.

You can’t rush this “Decoration Day” ritual. Like the stations of the cross, you have to take each step in turn because that is the only way to get where you’re going. Yes, I suppose you could hire a helicopter to airlift you there, but part of the meaning of the ritual, at least for me–the newcomer–is found in the ride and the stories. “Darrell, that’s the house where we lived when Connie was born.” “Otto and I used to walk up this hillside to go to church before we were married.” “I wonder whatever happened to the family that lived in that house.” It doesn’t matter that the stories don’t change very much from year to year. That never matters when the story intersects with your life.

Holy Week is sort of like Memorial Day in Wayne County. Just replace Monticello, Windy, Hidalgo, and Taylor’s Grove with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. You have to take each day in turn because that is the only way to get where you’re going.

And no, not everybody understands the importance of this journey and thus they try to rush things, airlifting themselves directly to Easter without letting the process unfold naturally and in its own time. We prefer the triumph of Easter to the agony of the garden, the betrayal, the trials, and the cross. But do we really understand Easter if we rush through the days that come before as if they were mere preliminaries? The truth is, we need to walk with Jesus all the way to the cross before we can really grasp the message of his resurrection. Otherwise it’s like skipping to the happy ending of a story without troubling ourselves with all the grit and conflict and pain that give the ending meaning.

But it is in the spiritual struggle that the story of Easter most closely intersects with human life. That is where we see ourselves: faithful yet fickle, betrayers and betrayed, accusers and accused, crying out with feelings of abandonment and weighed down with the weight of our sins. If we miss these things, Easter is just the punchline to a joke we don’t get. But if we determine to look for each landmark in turn without skipping steps or getting them out of sequence, we may be surprised on Easter morning to find that the resurrection power is a part of our story as well.

Palm Sunday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Easter.

There’s no other way to get there.

Psalm 22

Joshua Hearne, whose blog Not Quite Getting It is on an extended hiatus, has written an excellent fresh translation of Psalm 22. I am pleased to present it to you today:

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
So far from my salvation?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ from the words of my groaning!
My God, I call daily and nightly and am not silent but you do not hear.

But holy are You who dwells in the praises of Yisra’el. In you our ancestors trusted. They trusted you and you carried them away safely. They called out as a body to you and were rescued. They trusted in you and were not disappointed.

I am no man but, rather, I am a maggot, a disgrace among humanity, scorned by people. All who see me mock me, with their actions and face but, also, saying: ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHe placed his faith in the LORD; if the LORD is pleased with him, then let the LORD snatch him away.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

Yet you are the one that brought me out of the womb?¢‚Ǩ¬¶you made me to trust you from the breasts of my mother. From the womb, it was you that I was cast upon and it was you that has been my God. Affliction and distress are near to me; do not be far from me, for there is no other help but you!

My many enemies, like beasts, have surrounded me. They have enclosed me like strong bulls of Bashan. They snap their jaws at me like mighty and ravenous lions.

See how I am like spilt water: My bones flow out of their joints and my very heart is like melted wax within me. Oh, yes, I am like water but, yet, my strength is dried up like an earthen pot and my tongue sticks to my jaws for you have brought me into the dust of death.

Nevertheless I am surrounded by a multitude of enemies like a pack of biting dogs. They strike at my hands and my feet. I can count every one of my bones yet they stare at me as they cast lots to divide my clothing among themselves.

O LORD, do not be far way from me! Hurry to help me for you are my protection! Snatch my life away from the blade and from the hand of my enemies. Rescue me from those beast-like enemies of mine; from the mouth of the lion and the horn of the bull.

I have counted my bones but I will recount your name before my brothers and sisters. I will boast of you in the congregation:

All you who revere the LORD should praise the LORD! All you children of Ya?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢kov should glorify the LORD! Stand in awe of the LORD children of Yisra’el!

For the LORD has neither despised nor detested the suffering of the suffering. No the LORD?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s face is not hidden from the pained and afflicted! When anybody calls out to the LORD they are heard?¢‚Ǩ¬¶
technorati tags: bible, good friday, old testament, psalms

Interview: “Easily the Favorite Service of Our Entire Church”

On April 5th, Maundy Thursday, Livonia Baptist Church will gather for a fellowship meal and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. That isn’t terribly exciting news, is it? Lots of Christians‚Äîeven a growing number of Baptists‚Äîset aside Maundy Thursday for worship, reflection, and Holy Communion. What is unusual, however, is that this predominantly white community in the Detroit suburbs will be joined by a sister church, Detroit’s Temple of Faith Baptist Church, an African American congregation. The two churches have held a joint Maundy Thursday service since 1975, when few Baptists observed the Christian year and even fewer were comfortable with the idea of worshiping with a congregation of a different race.

I have asked Dr. Gilbert Sanders, pastor of Livonia Baptist, and Rev. Rochelle Davis Jr., pastor of Temple of Faith, to share a bit about this tradition they share. Dr. Sanders has served at Livonia since 1989. Before that, he served churches in Illinois (where he was one of only two white ministers who were members of the NAACP) and Missouri. Rev. Davis, the founding pastor at Temple of Faith, has served that congregation for thirty-nine years.

How did it come about that Temple of Faith and Livonia Baptist has a tradition of worshiping together on Maundy Thursday?

Gilbert Sanders: The beginnings of worshiping together date back some thirty years with Pastors Clark and Davis. Elvin Clark was my predecessor at Livonia Baptist Church. So I will let Pastor Davis tell the beginning of the story.

Rochelle Davis: In the late 60’s‚Äìearly 70’s the Baptist State Convention of Michigan developed an Institute for Bible studies. Pastor Elvin Clark was one of the teachers, and I was a student in his class. In the class we discussed many subjects, but especially race relations.

Pastor Clark and I became close friends. On one occasion, when we were on the golf course, we discussed of having a fellowship between the two churches. We agreed to have a Good Friday Service. Pastor Clark discussed this with Livonia Baptist and I discussed it with Temple of Faith. Both churches agreed—with some resistance because this was something different for the two congregations.

In the mid 70’s we had our first Good Friday Fellowship, which was held at Temple of Faith Baptist Church. We agreed that the host church would give leadership to the worship service and the visiting pastor would preach. The host pastor and visiting pastor would administer the Lord’s Supper together. The fellowship influenced the two congregations to continue the tradition.

Two years later, Pastor Clark and I discussed the biblical arrangement of the Lord’s Supper celebration. Since Jesus first instituted the Lord’s Supper on a Thursday, we agreed to have the fellowship on the Thursday evening before Easter. We agreed to rotate the location of the fellowship and we called it the Holy Thursday Fellowship Celebration.

GS: 2007 will mark the thirty-third year of joint worship services during Holy Week. Today it may seem mild, but in the 70’s it was a radical idea. Both Clark and Davis stand as early giants in Baptist race relations.

Was there ever resistance to the idea? If so, how was it overcome?

RD: Because of the relationship between Pastor Clark and myself and the [success of the] first worship service between the two churches, it allowed us to overcome the few people who had some concerns.

GS: Yes, there was opposition, but it was always minor and limited to a very few. Even as late at the early 90s there were still a few who would not participate. Sometimes this even divided families. One family member would participate and the other family member would refuse. Some would attend when the joint service was at Livonia Baptist but would not go to Temple of Faith, saying that “they didn’t feel safe.”¬ù That reason was more politically correct than saying that they were prejudiced.

When I came pastor, I made sure that the congregation knew that racial prejudice was alive but not acceptable at church. It was still there, but no one admitted openly to it. Preaching may have helped to change attitudes, but also the joint services helped. The Sunday after the joint service, so many would report about how good the service was that it created a desire to find out what was going on. I have been here long enough to see all of the critics come around to participate. Today, I know of no opposition and only strong support for getting together.

What challenges have the two churches faced in learning how to worship with each other? What happens if differences arise in terms of outlook, values, expectations, or worship style?

GS: There have been no problems [of that nature]. The host church and pastor determine the overall style of worship. Both congregations enjoy the experiences as something new and unusual.

Today I only hear questions from those outside our church. For example, I have been told by a couple of other pastors that they wish they could do something like this in their church, but they are afraid of opposition. One pastor told me he would love to attend but he couldn’t since we share Communion together. I suggested that when we all get to heaven we would share Communion together. To that there was no reply, and the subject quickly changed. My gut feeling is that there is more opposition to a joint service among the races from ministers then there is from laity.

What spiritual attitudes contribute to making this annual event a success?

GS: Of course, the most basic spiritual attitude is faith in Jesus Christ and his teachings. There is one other significant factor. That is, we get to know each other. I emphasize not only attending [the joint service] but sitting with folk from Temple of Faith. I want people to start putting names and faces together. It is easy to be prejudiced against those we don’t know, or against just a mass of people. It is much more difficult to be prejudice to Bill, Mary, Jim, and Frank. People have to learn other people by name and personality. That is why we have a dinner and emphasize “fellowship” as much as worship. We never want it to be just a service of observation.

What have you learned from the other congregation? How have your people grown from the experience?

RD: The relationship—and friendship—between Pastor Clark and myself grew because of the interest we had concerning race relations. For example, Pastor Clark visited my home and I visited his. Whenever we would have major events such as ordination of deacons, weddings, etc., we would invite the other church to participate. Pastor Clark officiated at our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

The members from both congregations have grown in the relationship of understanding and appreciating each other culture. The Brotherhood of Livonia Baptist Church and Temple of Faith Baptist Church developed a healthy relationship. There was also a development of relationships between the members [of each church]. For example, attending retreats together at Bambi Lake [Michigan Baptist retreat and conference center]. The youth from each church have participated in a skating outing after Holy Thursday Fellowship, and the youth boys from each church participated in a softball fellowship.

One of the members at Livonia Baptist Church had a car business and helped one of the members at Temple of Faith, who was on a fixed income, get an excellent used car.

GS: I have learned that, no matter what color we are or what our background is, we share common loves, hopes, and fears. I have learned that black folks have more freedom in worship to express their inward spiritual experience.

Why is this an annual event tradition worth keeping?

GS: We who walk in the light are always one step away from the darkness. We worship to maintain where we have come and to advance into a closer walk with Jesus. Then, too, there are new members who must have a chance to experience what we have experienced. So today the joint worship service is easily the favorite service of our entire church.

RD: These events have become a tradition. Both congregations look forward to the Holy Thursday Celebration.

The Thursday before Easter is called “Maundy Thursday” from the Latin mandatus, meaning “commandment.” It is a reference to these words of Jesus, spoken on the night he instituted the Lord’s Supper:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:34-35)

I applaud both of these churches—and their pastors—for taking this commandment seriously.

If you’re in the Detroit Area and would like to attend, here are the directions. The street address for Livonia Baptist Church is 32940 Schoolcraft Road. The meal begins at 6:00, with worship following at 7:00.

technorati tags: communion, detroit, maundy thursday, lord’s supper, race relations, racial reconciliation, worship