The day opened with bright and beautiful sunlight, offering a welcome respite from days of rain. John Barrow brought a lovely vase of flowers arranged by Sandy. Pastor Curtis read scripture and gave the sermon based on the ascension of Jesus, and Pastor Emily offered prayers and assurance of the good news that in Christ we are forgiven. Michael Lancaster led the singing of hymns. Two selections of special music from past services when we could meet as a congregation, with accompanying photos, were added. The Prelude was “Arioso” by J.S. Bach; the anthem was Philip Stopford’s “Do Not Be Afraid.”
The Rev. Emily Wilmarth led the service with a moving sermon on Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.” The Rev. Dr. Curtis Fussell participated with the Prayer of Confession, Prayers of God’s People, and assurance of the forgiveness of sins. We incorporated music accompanied by photos from previous services, helping us to remember the joy of gathering for worship. We keep in our hearts the faith that empty pews will not forever be the fact of our church life, but that we will one day be able to return to our beloved sanctuary as a congregation.
This week’s music featured the 1831 Rowland Prichard composition, “Hyfrydol,” performed as the prelude by bagpiper Cameron Nixon and organist Angie Jenkins on May 27, 2018. The anthem was Jean Sibelius’ “Be Still My Soul,” arranged by Dan Bird and performed on March 19, 2018 by Andrew Parker, oboist, and Angie Jenkins. Dr. Michael Lancaster led the singing of hymns.
Our Elder Scott McDuff continues to record the services for YouTube until we can meet again as a congregation. This Sunday we incorporated a trumpet and organ prelude by Larry Black and Angie Jenkins, taken from an earlier, pre-social-distancing service. Pastor Curtis Fussell preached on “A Matter of Trust” based on the Scripture passage from John 14:1-14, and Pastor Emily Wilmarth offered prayers and assurance of pardon. Michael Lancaster led at-home worshippers in the singing of hymns. The flowers this week were given by Hilda and Pat Patrick in loving memory of Elizabeth Parker McCloskey and Patrick Charles McCloskey.
The Rev. Emily Wilmarth led the worship service, with Rev. Dr. Curtis Fussell, Dr. Michael Lancaster, and Angie Jenkins participating. Until we can gather together again in our sanctuary, we continue offering online services as a way to share our worship experience.
Our Easter Sunday worship service, filmed for congregational viewing on YouTube, focused on meeting our risen Lord whenever and wherever we go out to serve. The Rev. Dr. Curtis Fussell and Rev. Emily Wilmarth
led the service with Scripture, prayer, sermon and the serving of Holy Communion. Michael Lancaster led the singing of hymns, accompanied by Angie Jenkins who also provided the Prelude, music during the
service of Communion, and Postlude on the pipe organ.
Early in the Christian movement, Jesus’ followers remembered Jesus’
execution and the places where various parts occurred, recounting the details. By the Middle Ages, pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Holy Week were like the Muslim Haj—a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. When people couldn’t go to Jerusalem to walk the via Dolorosa with Christ, the ritual of the stations of the cross was born so that people could journey with Christ spiritually in their own parish devotion. Annually, the churches in Highlands gather to walk the stations in an ecumenical service of
scripture, singing, and prayer.
In light of our current situation, the clergy in town made the sad decision to cancel this year’s town-wide service. In lieu of this ecumenical service, pastors Curtis and Emily led worshippers virtually on an online journey through the stations on our own church campus, remembering the painful path that Jesus walked.
We celebrate this first day of Holy Week by focusing on both the glory and the passion of Christ, represented at the outset by the palms and joyful songs signifying Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, then turning to the somber events of desolation and abandonment surrounding his suffering and death. During the latter portion of the service devoted to Christ’s passion, we engage in the “stripping of the sanctuary,” a practice dating from the seventh century. In silence, all liturgical and decorative objects including the Bible, the paraments, candles, and pastors’ stoles, are removed, and the pulpit and font are covered in black cloth. We hear the drama of the passion and death of our Lord in Scripture and music as well as seeing it physically in our sacred space of worship. The church remains bare, in silence and desolation, until the joyful dawn of Easter.
In this time of restrictions on gathering, we at First Presbyterian Church are trying something new in an effort to offer an online worship service to our family of faith.
We are sending out an email that will include both a link to a recorded worship service and the service bulletin. You are invited to watch and participate at home. Each week there will be scripture, song, preaching, and prayer. We encourage you to watch at 11 am on Sunday — we can all attend worship together virtually.
In Christ’s peace,
Emily and Curtis