Barrington Christians prepare to celebrate Easter

Jordan Cunningham walks the spiritual labyrinth at St. Paul United Church of Christ as fellow church members reflect with prayer books.
Jordan Cunningham walks the spiritual labyrinth at St. Paul United Church of Christ as fellow church members reflect with prayer books.

As parents think of where to hide eggs for their little ones and ham recipes are pulled off the Internet, church leaders throughout Barrington are finalizing plans for celebrating Easter.

The Barrington area is home to a number of Christian houses of worship, all planning unique ways to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Barrington is home to a couple of Lutheran churches, including the Lutheran Church of Atonement, at 909 E. Main St., where Senior Pastor Don Wink is leading his congregation though a number of different Holy Week services — starting this past Sunday with Palm Sunday.

Maundy Thursday, the day Christians celebrate Jesus' Last Supper, Lutheran Church of Atonement was set to hold a service where members have a chance to participate in foot washing, as Jesus did for the Twelve Apostles.

On Good Friday, Wink said, the church will break up The Passion story – the story of Jesus' suffering and crucifixion – into seven parts, and reflect on each individual one.

Saturday night brings the Vigil of Easter, where congregants gather in darkness and reflect on prophecies of resurrection from the Old Testament as well as the gifts of baptism.

It culminates Easter Sunday, where Atonement will hold three services. The first two will include a traditional service with a choir and organ, while the third will have a band. The church also has brought breakfast in with the help of Barrington's Egg Harbor Café.

Wink said he hopes his message follows the one that will be told around the world Sunday.

"Jesus was bodily raised from real death and it never happened before and it hasn't happened since," he said. "For us to somehow capture that sense of surprise is difficult. That's been part of the story for us for as long as we've been paying attention. How do you make it relevant?

"The relevance is, what difference does Jesus make in our lives now? Is our life better when you live in his way? I believe it is."

Half a mile down the road, at 401 E. Main St., lies St. Paul United Church of Christ and its pastor, Jana Chwalisz. This year has brought some changes to its Holy Week programming.

For Maundy Thursday, St. Paul is joining Salem United Methodist Church for a Mediterranean dinner, followed by a dramatic presentation of "The Other Twelve Disciples," a story of 12 women who knew Jesus. Visitors must register for the dinner.

On Good Friday, St. Paul is trying something new by bringing in a prayer labyrinth, where congregants take a spiritual journey while walking around a labyrinth. The idea is one walks into the center to ask God a question, and walks out hearing his answer.

"You'll be surprised by the power of it if you enter the labyrinth with the right intent," Chwalisz said. The opportunity for prayer and meditation starts at 4 p.m. followed by a Good Friday service at 7 p.m.

On Easter Sunday, St. Paul is kicking off its celebration of the resurrection by hosting a mimosa breakfast, followed by an Easter egg hunt and the St. Paul tradition of The Living Cross, where each member selects from a collection of fresh cut flowers, and puts their flower in a wooden frame in the shape of the cross.

"It is a beautiful tradition that has been in this church for a very long time," Chwalisz said. "It is representative of Christ's new life."

A traditional service follows.

"One of the things that is unique for us here at St. Paul is our overall message that we are radically inclusive no matter who you are, where you've been, or what you've done," she said, also mentioning St. Paul's involvement with the LGBT community.

"Our message for Easter is always about the radical nature of Christ's love and gospel ... they are accepted and welcome. There is absolutely no criteria that they have to pass, no test they have to pass, nothing. The grace is all around them all the time."

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