Next week, April 9-16, marks the most holy period of the Christian year, Easter with the Resurrection of Jesus, and the several days preceding it including Good Friday on which Scripture states He died on a Roman cross. The date of Easter sometimes is different in nations of Eastern Europe, such as Greece and Russia, where a different calendar is followed, but in 2017 the Eastern Orthodox holy day is the same as that of other Christians.
Before Christian Easter there was Passover; it is sacred to Jews, for it marks the “passing over” of the angel of death for the eldest son as the Hebrew people in ancient times were led out of slavery in Egypt by the hand of God. This year the first night of Passover, in which a ritual meal called a seder is eaten in homes, falls on Tuesday, April 18.
As many religious groups today are seeking understanding of others, some Christian congregations will hold simulated seders or have speakers from other religious traditions. The more conservative, which hold to strict interpretation of the Bible, insist that nothing should be done which might dilute the primacy of Jesus.
The date of Easter varies from year to year and is established by the phase of the moon. It can be any time from about March 20 to April 20.
Here are some special programs to mark the holy season.
- At Greene Memorial United Methodist Church Maundy Thursday will be marked by a musical presentation, the “Schubert Mass in G” presented by the combined host choir and that of Thrasher Memorial United Methodist in Vinton. It will begin at 7 p.m. On Good Friday at 6 p.m. a “Procession to the Cross” will go from Calvary Baptist to Greene Memorial in downtown Roanoke. Several clergy who serve congregations in that area will join for an Easter morning sunrise service at 7 on the Martin Luther King Bridge.
- A sunrise service is scheduled at Natural Bridge beginning at 7 with a Liberty University chaplain, the Rev. David Nasser, the speaker.
- In Fincastle it’s the custom for the town’s churches to join for a Palm Sunday procession beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the historic courthouse. At Fincastle United Methodist a dramatic presentation will be part of the 9 and 11 a.m. services on Palm Sunday. On Maundy Thursday a Tenebrae darkness liturgy will be used beginning at 7 p.m. The congregation joins St. Mark’s United Methodist at Daleville for Good Friday worship starting at 7 p.m.
- At St. Mark’s Episcopal in Fincastle the Maundy Thursday ritual begins at 7 p.m. and includes optional Foot Washing along with Holy Communion. Good Friday worship is at noon and 7 p.m. and on Easter morning Godwin Cemetery again will be the site of the town sunrise service starting at 7.
- At Bonsack Baptist Church an especially commissioned anthem, “Psalm 23: A Journey with the Shepherd” by Pepper Choplin will be performed on Palm Sunday free at 3 and 6:30 p.m. Special Maundy Thursday Communion is scheduled at 7 p.m. followed on Good Friday at 7 p.m. by the Service of Shadows. Because of the extra space provided by the Community Life Center, the usual Sunday morning schedule will be followed with services at 9 and 10:30 a.m
- Troutville Baptist Church will have a special cantata sung on Palm Sunday at the 11 a.m. service. “Because He Lives” will be followed on Maundy Thursday by a potluck supper and a service of reflection and Communion at 6;30 p.m. Easter morning worship begins at 11 a.m. with a cross being flowered.
- Central United Methodist Church in Salem has scheduled a Palm Sunday cantata, “Come to the Cross and Remember” on April 9 at 4:30 p.m. performed by the Chancel Choir. This church is also participating in the collection of aluminum pull tabs as a gesture of support for Temple Emanuel where the tab collection represents the 1,500,000 children killed in Adolph Hitler’s 1930s Holocaust. Tabs may be brought to the S. College Avenue building and will later go to the Ronald McDonald House.
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salem begins Holy Week with a Palm Sunday liturgy by the main entrance at N. Market and Main Street at 10 a.m. Communion will be available on Monday and Wednesday nights at 7 and on Tuesday at noon. Maundy Thursday Eucharist with optional Foot Washing will begin at 7 and on Good Friday the penitential worship will take place at noon. Easter Sunday services are at 7:30, 9 and 11a.m.
- College Lutheran Church has scheduled its Palm Sunday worship at 10 a.m. with the youth groups presenting a “Living Stations of the Cross” ritual on Monday night at 7. Both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship will start at 7. This church also will be the scene of a Saturday evening service, the great Vigil of Easter, also beginning at 7 and concluding about two hours later since it includes candle lighting outdoors, a procession, many Scripture readings, a special chant occurring in darkness with the shadows broken by Holy Communion denoting the beginning of the Easter day. Easter morning services will begin at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m.
- St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Roanoke will hold its Great Vigil of Easter at sunrise 6:30 Sunday. Its Holy Week services include Palm Sunday liturgy at 8 and 10 a.m. with the informal Gathering worship at 6. Maundy Thursday observance will begin with worship at 7 p.m. but continue with an all-night Prayer Vigil which ends on Good Friday at 7 a.m. The church’s labyrinth for prayer will be available from Thursday night to Friday at 6 p.m. Good Friday worship is at noon and 6 p.m. when the Way of the Cross ritual will be used. Following the early Easter morning service other services will begin at 9 and 11. The usual Sunday night informal service is canceled for the day.
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Salem also has scheduled its Easter Vigil outside the Turner Road building beginning at 8:30 p.m. Easter Day Masses are will be at 8 and 10:30 a.m.
- Our Lady of Nazareth Catholic Church on Electric Road will have a Great Vigil at the church Saturday at 8:30 p.m. but, as for many years, one Easter morning service at 10 will take place in the Salem Civic Center so that all members of the large parish may worship together.