All paths cross today: Christian congregations find common ground in crucifixion
Here’s one thing Catholics, Methodists and Pentecostals all can agree on – Good Friday.
The somber, pre-Easter holiday, marking the day Roman soldiers beat and executed Jesus on a cross for claiming he was the king of the Jews, is a symbol of unity among Nevada County Christian congregations.
Several services are bringing together churches that usually stick to their own agendas.
One is a noontime community service, a fixture on the local calendar led by Grass Valley Ministers Fellowship, which loosely unites an array of area Christian churches and ministries.
“Everyone is busy with their own schedules. The ministers’ fellowship helps pastors break away from the daily routine and try to partner together,” said Foothill Church Pastor Sam Barger, who is at the helm of the Good Friday service, which will be hosted at Sierra Presbyterian Church in Nevada City.
Christian churches are split into denominations for reasons – worship varies from group to group. Some take communion every week, some speak in tongues as part of worship, some baptize infants by sprinkling and others baptize adults by immersion.
The crucifixion, however, is the common denominator.
“Most of the differences between Christian churches are non-essentials,” Barger said. “The essentials are believing Jesus is the Son of God, he died and rose again.”
A band from Barger’s church, located on Highway 49 midway between Grass Valley and Alta Sierra, is leading music at the ecumenical service. The repertoire is contemporary, but reflective, he said. Other ministers will be preaching and serving as ushers.
It’s one of just two formalized activities the churches collaborate on. In addition to Good Friday, a morning service will take place at the Nevada County Fairgrounds on fair days in August.
The fellowship is a chance for ministers to share the triumphs and tribulations of their jobs. Monthly meetings consist of an hour of prayer, lunch and a short talk from a member.
“We talk about challenges in our kind of work, and how we can continue to seek to do the work of Jesus for Nevada County,” said minister’s fellowship president Scott Gallagher, pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Grass Valley.
A few churches won’t be at the community service, and that’s because they have long-standing traditions of their own.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Grass Valley United Methodist Church and Peace Lutheran Church will team up to hold two more formal, ceremonial services.
For liturgical churches – those that worship in a more structured setting, with most prayers written out in a program – Good Friday traditions are set in stone.
The plum-colored cloth draping the sanctuary of Peace Lutheran Church will come down during a ceremony called “stripping of the altar.”
At local Catholic churches, a long Good Friday Mass includes the priest entering the building carrying a wooden crucifix; church members approach the crucifix and kiss or bow to it in honor.
Decorations come down, leaving the church stark.
“It’s like the tomb,” said Fr. Sylvester Kwiatkowski of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Taking time to remember the gruesome, unsightly parts of Jesus’ life story is crucial.
“In our society, we don’t want to show our sadness,” Kwiatkowski said. “But when we commemorate the death of Christ, we remember that Jesus Christ heals our wounds, and we can be reborn.”
To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4247.
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