Clergy's Easter message puts religion back in holiday

April 11, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

Easter was established as a celebration of Christ's rising from the dead. But in a society that commercializes anything, the heart of this Christian celebration often tends to be marshmallow chickens and egg hunts, ministers lament.

Wading through the hoopla of cards, candy, stuffed animals, baskets, flowers and new clothes, churches struggle for innovative ways to hold their parishioners' attention.

Anne Arundel congregations are trying everything from catchy ads to songs that tell the Easter story in hip jargon.

The Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church in Odenton made the point by handing out and mailing hundreds of pink advertisements for Easter services, depicting a stuffed rabbit.

"Has the true meaning of Easter gotten a little fuzzy?" the ad asks. "Give your children more than bunnies and baskets this year. Give them a miracle."

Said Tim Stern, the church pastor: "Everybody's bought their jelly beans and chocolate bunnies and green plastic grass and egg-coloring kits. But eggs and bunnies are fertility symbols; they have nothing to do with the Resurrection."

The purpose of the Lenten season preceding Easter is to help people focus on God, said the minister. To add meaning to the jTC Ark and Dove's Good Friday service, the church held its first liturgical dance, featuring prayer set to formal movement and music.

A United Methodist church has reminded women this Easter of their roles in the Resurrection account.

"Women are the first to know [about the Resurrection] and told to tell the disciples," said Chela Lewis, president of a women's group in the Pasadena United Methodist church.

"Imagine the blessing of being the very first to see the resurrected Jesus. No woman who reads her Bible can ever doubt how deeply beloved by God are women," she said.

Another congregation, the Pasadena Assembly of God, has been playing an Easter song by Christian vocalist Carmen, preparing a church group to attend a concert in Baltimore.

In "Sunday's on the Way," Carmen portrays the devil as a Mafia hood who calls his underlings in a panic after the Crucifixion to make certain Jesus is dead.

The church's youth and music pastor, Deane Hinton, said the song's lyrics, set to a catchy tune, "make you think about Easter in a totally different way."

He recites:

The demons were planning on having a party one night

They got beer, Jack Daniels and pretzels, a little red wine and some white

L They were celebrating how they crucified Christ on that tree

But Satan, the snake himself, wasn't so at ease.

Well he took his crooked finger and he dialed the phone by his bed

To call an old faithful friend who'd know for sure if he was dead

'Hey, Grave,' Satan said, 'Tell me, did my plan fail?'

Old Grave just laughed and said, 'The dude is dead as nails.'

Mr. Hinton said, "On Sunday Satan wakes, distraught, and again asks if Jesus is still dead. Grave reassures him that Jesus is never coming back. But then there's a loud sound and he yells: 'Oh, no -- somebody's messing with the stone!' "

SG While this account of the Easter story involves a bit of tongue-in-

cheek imagery, the youth pastor says it "will draw teen-agers who might not listen to the traditional Easter story in church. It's -- a contemporary retelling."

Other churches try to provoke interest by taking their church on "tours" of Israel 2,000 years ago. The pastor of Ferndale United Methodist Church, the Rev. Susan Duchesneau, led the congregation on an imaginary trek through the Holy Land, with stopovers at various historical sights in Jerusalem.

The congregation also viewed a "radio drama" performance, in which they overheard the conversations of actors off stage, telling the Easter story.

"The Scripture [telling about Easter] may seem so familiar we don't think about it," said Ms. Duchesneau. But the innovative retellings helped even some who knew the story best, she said.

"They said they knew what the actors were going to say before they said it, but they were just wide-eyed," said the minister.

Concluded Mr. Hinton: "There are those who want to take Christ out of Easter. If they're going to commercialize it, we hope people at least will look at a chocolate cross and not a chocolate bunny."

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