Osceola (IN) Grace Brethren Church (Greg Serafino, pastor) wanted to make the Easter season more meaningful and help to focus the congregation’s sight on Christ. With the world demanding emphasis on bunnies and Easter egg hunts, Osceola Grace wanted to stem the flood and bring to their people the real reason for the season.
An idea came about as Pastor Greg Serafino and his Associate, Dave Knight, sat at a January breakfast meeting at a local restaurant. Casual conversation turned to the building and the new renovation of the interior with its new paint, carpet and worship center seating. The two pastors commented how it had brought about a new sense of excitement and enthusiasm to the church body.
The conversation then led to how the interior of a building many times helps to focus people toward God; such as how the statues, paintings, columns and spires in the Catholic Church help to focus people toward God. Greg and Dave then began to think about other ways that people could be aided in taking their focus off themselves and placing it upon Christ.
Discussion led to the fact that at three-fold communion many times during the “wedding feast” conversation and testimonies are more earthly centered and less Christ centered. Questions then arose such as: What changes could be made to draw people’s thoughts more to the price that Christ paid for us? How can we focus their thoughts away from just socializing at the “wedding feast” and think about what Christ did for them. How can we have a more worshipful time at the coming Good Friday three-fold communion?
The two pastors began to brainstorm, dream, and eventually form a new plan of action for the week leading up to Easter.
Understanding the importance of visual impressions made upon people but not wanting to emphasis the “stations of the cross,” the two began sketching on a napkin a sensory walk that would show the week leading up to the cross that would prepare people for Easter. They would eventually call it “The Journey to the Cross.” As they found out later, it was not an original idea, but it was new to them so they went for it.
They mapped out various rooms in the church; they imagined the rooms being transformed into places where Jesus walked during that last week before the crucifixion. They would set aside one room to depict Christ’s entry into Jerusalem with its marketplaces and stone walls. They would make another room to represent the home of Simon the leper; the place where Jesus dined with Lazarus, Mary and Martha and where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet.
Another room could be set up as the Temple outer court; where Jesus overturned the coin tables and released the doves and opened the sheep pens. The final room could be the “Upper Room” where Jesus broke bread, washed feet, and prayed for His disciples prior to going to the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the weeks that followed the two pastors began filling in the gaps. They developed a script that could be read by the elders of the church as they would guide people through the “Journey to the Cross.” The selected rooms would be decorated with Bible-period props. There would also be video clips shown on screens that depicted various scenes from movies such as “Jesus of Nazareth,” “The Passion,” and the “Jesus” movie.
PowerPoint slides and sound effects would enhance the impact on the visitors. In one room, palm leaves and garments were used to involve participants, while in another perfume was used to stimulate the senses while visiting the home of Simon the leper. Some of the participants were asked to act out the activities that happened in that place.
In another room the sound of braying donkeys, doves, and sheep set the stage for the temple area. John 17 Bible Study guides were made available to take home following the visit to the “Journey to the Cross.”
The church made the “Journey” available each night prior to Good Friday. Attendance was awesome but as time got closer to Easter; the biggest response was on Thursday evening. More than 80 attended that night alone.
The whole event took place in the scope of 40 minutes and groups of 12 to 15 people traveled the road that Jesus took to the cross. Many people left the event in a thought-filled state; some in tears and others reflected upon the things they had seen, heard and experienced. Others came out of the time with excitement and shared their ideas to enhance the event for the following year. All felt it was a wonderful time and helped to make the approach to Easter more meaningful.
On Good Friday, Osceola Grace held their three-fold communion service. This year they made some changes that caused the time to be more reflective and meaningful.
As the congregation entered the church they were met by elders of the church who escorted them into a room that was set up with a number of foot-washing stations. At each station an elder and his wife greeted the arrivals and explained the meaning of the foot-washing. The elder washed the feet of the men and boys in the family while his wife washed the feet of the women and girls. It was a time for the leadership to express love and show their service to the congregation. Many tears and hugs of appreciation were expressed at this very special occasion.
Following the foot-washing, people moved into the worship center where they participated in a time of praise and worship prior to the very simple “Wedding Feast of the Lamb” made up of a small sandwich, chips and drink. During the meal time there were various dramatic readings, responsive readings, special musical numbers and videos that helped to focus people’s thoughts on what Christ did for them on the cross.
The “bread and cup” followed a dramatic clip of Jesus sharing this special moment at the Last Supper.
The evening concluded with prayer following a video presentation called “At the Cross.”
The pastoral staff, participants, and the congregation went away with a wonderful sense that they had experienced the true meaning of communion. It was indeed a blessed Easter at Osceola Grace.