Sunday, March 27, 2005


I love the Easter service at our church, and have since the first time I attended it with T, a dozen or so years ago, before we were married. It was the music that sold me then, and it is what makes the service special even now.

After the organ prelude, the service began with a processional of handbell ringers playing joyous peals. Then we sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” as the cross, the lectern bible, and a candle are carried in, followed by the pastors and the rest of the choir. A small brass ensemble punches up the performance. All of the hymns are familiar ones that lend themselves to belting. There was a full house, so one could sing at full voice and not be concerned about making a scene.

The choir had two anthems, one of which was Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” I caught T singing along with it, and had to give him the “inside voice” sign. The bell choir played the offertory. I am not a big fan of bell choirs, but our top choir is darned good, and fun to watch, as well.

The Easter sermon is generally full of hope and joy, and today was no exception. (This was not true at the first service I attended here. The interim pastor was apparently firmly grounded in Calvinism, and the gist of the sermon was, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” Oy vey!)

We learned a couple of pastors back about the historical greeting of the early Christians: “Christ is risen!”, answered by “Christ is risen indeed!”. What’s more, back then we had to keep saying it until we sounded convincing, and as a result, we now sound like the pep club at the “Christ is Risen” rally. Which, I guess, we are.

The service always ends with our very fine organist playing the Toccata from Widor’s Organ Symphony No. 5. Many in the congregation stay and listen to the entire postlude. I have loved this showstopper since I first heard it in college some 25 years ago. My good friend Larry played it in his senior recital. One of my college roommates is a member of our church, and I saw her after the service. The first thing she said to me was, “The Widor always makes me think of Larry.”

Pomp, big music, and the ultimate message of hope. Not bad for an hour-long service.

Have a happy and blessed Easter.

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