Easter 2020 will be unlike any before it. Churches will be empty; congregations and families will gather over video call. Over the course of Holy Week, the Intersections team would normally be together in our office on 28th Street in Manhattan—the heart of New York’s flower district, which would be overflowing with lilies, tulips and daffodils to deliver to churches all over the city.
Instead, we’ve been meeting virtually each morning, checking in on each other’s well-being and sharing updates from home. This Easter Weekend, we wanted to share some of the Easter traditions and memories we’ll be incorporating into our socially distanced celebrations.
Rev. Julie Johnson Staples, J.D., Executive Director
[Above: Sunrise, Martha’s Vineyard]
My treasured tradition at Easter is the Sunrise Service. Although it is a tradition that hearkens back to a Moravian Christian custom, the Methodist Church of my youth and many churches since have gathered to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with the rising of the sun. Theologically, the timing ties to the resurrection story in Gospel accounts—when Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, only to find the stone rolled away and no sign of Christ’s body. Spiritually, I find a calming serenity at dawn as well as an amazing beauty at sunrise that points to the unlimited possibilities of a new day. This Easter, I will worship (virtually) at Sunrise with my home church, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, a UCC church in Massachusetts.
Looking with hope and gratitude for Easter, I share here a portion of sunrise service celebrated one Easter over Waddington Fell in the Trough of Bowland, Lancashire, in England. “It was a clear blue sky, with just a whisper of cloud on the eastern horizon. There was no sound, at 6:15 a.m., as sixteen people gathered to welcome the risen Christ.” This memory and liturgy were shared by Michele Jarmany, a United Reformed Church minister at Clitheroe, England.
Time creeps onward…
The long night is nearly over…
No sound disturbs the waiting dawn.
Will it ever end?
The gold of resurrection
quietly seeps over the horizon
gently melting away the black and grey
transforming the icy cold,
as rays of light
start to invade our world
revealing a tapestry of color,
flooding the world with a warm glow,
pulsating with your life blood,
breathing eternal life
into all creation.
Christ is risen!
John 1:1-5 New Living Translation (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
May God bless us in this New Day, the love of the cosmic Christ fill our hearts and the wind of God’s Spirit guide us into eternal life. Amen.
Tom Ferri, Administration, Finance and Program Manager
Editor’s Note: Tom is our resident gardener. He shared these botanical updates from his home in Union, NJ:
Victoria Anderson, Digital and Creative Content Manager
Marcia Fingal, Chief Outreach Officer/Global Impact Program Manager: Grateful 100 – Gratitude on Display
About twenty-five years or so ago, I began a spiritual practice that has served me well. Perhaps others will find it useful. I was going through a frustrating patch and found myself complaining about almost everything. One particular day, I stopped myself mid-sentence and realized I was surrounded by incredible blessings—if I only chose to see them all. Mid-sentence I had his realization.
I decided in that moment to write down ten things I was grateful for. I did that pretty easily and decided to just keep writing. That first list had 38 things, actually. I wrote very “stream of consciousness,” no judgements, just what popped into my head. I was the only one seeing my list, so it didn’t matter.
For example, today I’m grateful for:
Coconut Popsicles · Reading Good Books · My Parents · Friends · My Grandmother Olive · Love In My Life · A Cool Breeze · Movies · The Bible · Laughter · Peace · Ocean Waves · My Cat Zen · Activism · Fashion · Church · Television · Dancing · Curry Chicken · Broadway Shows · Manicures · Meaningful Work · Prayer · My Sister · Music · Health and Wellness · Travel · Okra Fish · The Night Sky · God · Dreams Realized · Relationships that Teach · Sun On My Face · Journaling · Poetry · Good Hair Days · Flowers · Animals
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Getting to 100 items on your list might be easier than you think.
I felt better and lighter after that first list and decided I needed to foster more gratitude and less complaining. I developed the habit of doing this exercise pretty regularly. Whenever I felt ingratitude or angst creep in, I would pull out my journal and pen, my computer or iPad, even my smartphone. It doesn’t matter where you write your list; the power is in the naming.
Acknowledging in this small way the many things right in front of us for which we are grateful is akin to saying “thank you” for the good in our lives. This practice helped shift my mindset; I opted for gratitude and thankfulness more often than ingratitude and ungratefulness. I began to see the many beautiful people, things and opportunities I took for granted while complaining.
As our Lenten Journey draws to a close with Resurrection Sunday approaching, may we always embrace the many blessings right in front of us.
Rachel McCave, Program and Administrative Associate
For me, Holy Week and Easter are a time for reflection, storytelling and creativity. Growing up, music and theater were a large part of how I celebrated Easter with my friends and family—participating in our church’s gospel choir and performing in the Passion Play at school. We would reflect on the life of Christ through beautiful storybooks, uplifting songs of praise and a dramatic play that made me feel closer to God in the best way possible. Now I like to celebrate this time to by doing something creative and listening to one of my new favorite songs: Father Stretch My Hands by the Sunday Service Choir & Kanye West.
Anna Dreves, Chief Ethics Officer/JACE Manager: Time-traveling Light
I remember . . . laughter, barefoot in the grass, chasing around the garden, trying to find the eggs and treats before our dog, Cleo, gets to them. Oh! There she goes: Triumphantly parading around a golden chocolate bunny. My sister trying to wrestle it out of her mouth; my dad intervening. Through all the commotion and excitement, my mom pointing out flowers: “Look at the tulips, the daffodils, look at all these snowdrops!” Bliss, sunshine, more laughter.
I see them now: the flowers, the many colors of the Easter eggs, my mom’s smile, my dad’s laughter, my sister’s joyous shrieks, Cleo’s excited barking.
I believe, strongly, that inside of us we carry everything we need to get through whatever we encounter.
This Easter, I remember the absolute joy that filled my childhood Easter days—a light of happiness deep inside me that now ignites my Easter candle.
Ben Ohene, Associate Producer and Content Curator: Easter Feast
Sunlight pours into the dining room through a large window and heats the already warm space. The sound of children’s laughter sails through the air and bounces off of cream-colored walls adorned with family photos.
The sweet smell of cornbread in the oven fills the atmosphere. The old wobbly wooden table in the dining room is weighed down and steadied by plates of food: baked ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, kelewele and a large pot of jollof rice. A mix of America and Ghana.
The Easter feast is soon to begin.
Jude Wetherell, Program and Development Associate
This year’s Easter is teaching me what Easter really means in a way I’ve never experienced before. I’m grateful for two traditions that will keep me grounded during my socially distanced observations: listening to “Jesus Christ Superstar” (virtual high-five to my colleague Victoria) and this recipe for soft rolls from my maternal great-grandmother, Bonne Maman Marthe.
2 cups milk
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
4 tbsp butter
3 pkgs yeast (mix in 3 cups lukewarm water)
6-8 cups flour
Mix milk, sugar, salt and butter. Scald mixture in a saucepan and let cool. Return to a mixing bowl and add water-yeast mixture and eggs. Add flour incrementally until it is dry enough to leave the sides of the bowl. Knead well and let rise until the dough doubles; knead again. Cut into 40 pieces; bake 10 minutes at 450°. (I know; that’s a lot of rolls. Consider halving the recipe if your Easter is smaller than usual this year.)
Enjoy with butter; make a tiny sandwich with ham, lamb, salad or whatever you’ve got.
Happy Easter from all of us at Intersections International and Believe Out Loud!