Members of Christian Reformed churches across the continent marked Holy Week in a variety of ways, from prayer vigils to a Passover meal.
Coats were brought to Vancouver’s First CRC and laid down for others during the Palm Sunday service.
On Palm Sunday, April 17, members of First Christian Reformed Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, laid down their coats.
They didn’t lay them on a road to re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem, but rather on the church altar, to be given to people who need coats during what has been a very cold, wet spring in Vancouver.
New and gently-used winter coats, spring coats, rain coats, and children’s coats made splashes of red, green, and yellow amid the grays, browns, and blues as the coats piled up at the foot of a wooden cross.
“I walked up to put down my coat, and then I kind of threw it and let it fly through the air,” said Lindsay Vanderhoek. “I felt a sense of joy that comes in surrendering to Christ.”
Rev. Trevor Vanderveen, pastor of First CRC, drew parallels between the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and the 50,000 participants who gathered earlier on Palm Sunday morning for the annual Vancouver Sun Run.
Members of Caledonia (Mich.) CRC, including teenagers and senior citizens, took part in a 48-hour prayer vigil leading up to the Good Friday service April 22.
Cole DenHartigh, 16, kneels in a prayer of confession during the 48-hour prayer vigil of Caledonia CRC.
Participants spent an hour at prayer stations set up in the church for healing prayer, prayer for the lost, revival, confession, and peace from warfare.
“We [had] handouts, Scripture, and sample prayers at the stations, along with some great visuals and artwork,” said Heidi VanderWal, organizer of the event.
Many of the volunteers prayed alone, but some prayed with their spouses or prayer partners during the hour.
“You wonder how you can do that for an hour by yourself, but they had it set up so well with five stations in the one room. It was an absolutely amazing time,” said Leon VanderLaan. “It was a far greater blessing to me than I could have possibly hoped for.”
VanderWal said, “I would encourage other churches to do something similar because it’s something meaningful and something powerful. It brought a renewed passion and revival.”
Next year Caledonia CRC hopes to pray the entire length of Holy Week—168 hours straight.
In Connecticut, members of Avery Street CRC in South Windsor celebrated a Passover meal, or Seder, on Maundy Thursday, April 21, as part of their Lent observance.
When asked why a Protestant church would celebrate a Jewish festival, Rev. Jerry Lion explained, “Jesus was Jewish, and the meal he and his disciples had together on the night of his betrayal was the Passover meal.”
Brad Sylvester as Jesus, Greg Fopma as John (left), and John Hibma as James (right).
During the Seder, all the essential elements of the traditional meal are explained and eaten:
- matzos, an unleavened bread, or “Bread of Affliction,” symbolizing the hardship of the Jewish people as slaves in Egypt and their transition to freedom;
- a green vegetable, usually parsley, symbolizing the initial flourishing of the Israelites in Egypt, which is then dipped in saltwater, representing tears shed;
- a bitter herb, usually horseradish, representing the bitterness of slavery;
- a paste-like mixture of fruits, nuts, and honey, symbolic of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves when they laid bricks for Pharaoh’s monuments;
- a piece of roasted meat, usually lamb, as a visual reminder of those moments right before the Exodus;
- an egg, a universal symbol of springtime, new beginnings, and rebirth.
The evening included a drama in which members of the congregation played the roles of Jesus and his disciples, depicting events the evening before Jesus’ crucifixion, including Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, the sending away of Judas, and the institution of the Last Supper.
Jeanine Penta, a deacon and one of the organizers of the evening, thought the Seder celebration gave “an entirely different understanding of the last night Jesus spent with his disciples.”
Sophie Nagtegaal reads Scripture on a Vancouver beach at dawn on Easter.
Back on the West Coast, very early on Easter morning, April 24, the sun was just coming up above the trees, filling a beach near Vancouver with morning light as the smell of smoke and frying fish welcomed those gathering there, perhaps the way it might have been on that first Easter morning.
This beach gathering of the Nagtegaal family, members of The Bridge Community CRC in Langley, British Columbia, has taken place for 20 years.
“We get there early, “said Sophie Nagtegaal, “we gather in a circle and read John 21:1-14, pray together, and then have breakfast. We talk about all that has changed since the previous year and over all the years we have gathered—new babies, loss of loved ones, illness, joys and sorrows.”