The Holiest of Weeks
This month we celebrate the highlight of the Christian year, the victory of life over death with the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning. I am sure the church will be full, as it should be, for this grand and glorious celebration.
The finding of that empty tomb on that first Easter morning so many hundreds of years ago was a dramatic moment. But to fully appreciate the drama and meaning of that moment, one has to understand what happened in the days before – the betrayal and abandonment of Jesus by his friends, his arrest, torture, and execution.
Every year, the church reenacts those events from the final week of Jesus’ life during Holy Week, the week before Easter. The church is not so full for these services, but those who come to them inevitably comment on how moving these liturgies are, and how their journey through all the events of Holy Week deepens their appreciation of the miracle of Easter morning.
Here is our Holy Week schedule:
Palm Sunday (March 20, 8:30 and 10:45 a.m.) Weather permitting, we begin the service in the Beech Grove, and process into church waving palm fronds, as we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem days before his death. At the gospel, the mood of the service changes dramatically as we hear the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Maundy Thursday (March 24, 7 p.m.) Maundy is the Greek word meaning commandment. On this night we remember Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on the last night of his life – to love one another. In this moving service, we are all invited to participate in washing one another’s feet, as Jesus did for his disciples that night. The service continues with the Eucharist, and ends as we sit in silence during the stripping of the altar, leaving the church bare as we head into Good Friday.
Good Friday (March 25, 7 p.m.) The bare church reflects the somberness of this day, as we remember that the savior of the world was executed by the state.
Easter Vigil (March 26, 7 p.m.) This dramatic service begins at the foot of the cross in the Memorial Garden with the lighting of the new fire, from which the Paschal (Easter) candle is lit. We process by candlelight into the darkened church to hear the stories of God’s acts of salvation throughout history. Midway through the service the lights come on and bells ring as we joyously proclaim that Lent is over and Christ is risen. A champagne and cake reception follow the service.
Easter Sunday (March 27, 8:30 and 10:45) Come celebrate the joy of the resurrection! There will be an Easter egg hunt after the 10:45 service.
Three Years with Family Promise
When St. Dunstan’s opened its doors on March 17, 2013, to host for a week the families sent to us by the Family Promise North Fulton DeKalb (FPNFD) affiliate of Family Promise (FP), we became part of a nationwide effort (192 FP affiliates in 41 states) whose goal for 30 years has been to help to end homelessness “one family at a time.”
Perhaps, we should say four families at a time, for FPNFD stipulates that each of the dozen or so congregations that make up each FP affiliate host a maximum of four families with a maximum of 14 persons (adults and children) in its designated facility during the four separate weeks each year that the congregation takes its turn as host.
St. Dunstan’s partnered with Holy Innocents for the first two years of our FP participation, and St Anne’s joined us as a third partner last month. Our three years with FP have been a blessing both to the families that were our guests and to all of us who have volunteered in the program here.
There is no doubt that when Tricia broached the idea of our becoming part of the FP program, many of us wondered if our relatively small congregation, even with the expected help from Holy Innocents, would be able to do all the work needed to conduct this important program successfully.
After all, the FP sign-up sheet indicated that there were about 55+ slots to be filled with volunteers for the several specific “jobs” – ranging from setting up and taking down the accommodations to preparing meals to staying overnight with our guests – that need to be done four times a year.
But St. Dunstan’s rose to the occasion. Under the competent leadership of Elizabeth Wong Mark and Peg Maloney, who took on the daunting task of being the coordinators of FP at St. Dunstan for the first two years, and Mimi Gold, Vivian Siggers, and Ellen Taratus, who are continuing the wonderful work that Elizabeth and Peg started, we have been able to help 76 percent of the families who have stayed with us to transition from homelessness to a life of stable housing and employment (the national average is 75 percent).
To hear and read about the families and the “graduates,” as director Felicia Hardy calls them, has been both gratifying and inspiring. It was interesting to learn, for example, that the majority of the adults in the program (17 of 18 last year) are already employed; but they are usually seeking better and/or more employment. Tricia has occasionally shared with us reports about the families’ gratitude to St. Dunstan’s for the pleasant surroundings and the kindness they have experienced during their time with us and their successes after leaving the program.
According to statistics, these families spend an average of less than two months as part of the FP program preparing for the independent life for which they all dream. The expertise of social workers and other professionals and the hospitality of congregations like St. Dunstan’s are vital parts of their achieving those dreams.
May God watch over all of the families who have been our guests at St.Dunstan’s. May Irene, the most recent graduate, who signed her lease on February 13, enjoy a wonderful life with her son Myles in their new home. And may God continue to give us at St. Dunstan’s both the desire and the strength to continue to support current and future families on their journeys to a better life.
Daylight Savings Time
Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday, March 13, at 2:00 a.m. Please remember to set your clocks forward one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.
Thanks to Ginny Harris (with an assist from Dick) for turning unused vestments into a new Lenten banner.
Thanks to Lori Westphal and Max Changus for donating a foos ball table for our youth to enjoy.
Thanks to Judy Guard and jazz musician friends for bringing us a Dixieland Jazz Eucharist the last Sunday of Epiphany.
Thanks to all who helped with the Mardi Gras pancake brunch following the Jazz Eucharist.
Thanks to all who helped with Hotel St. Dunstan’s in February. A special thanks to our hard-working coordinators Mimi Gold, Vivian Siggers, and Ellen Taratus.
We welcome Sandra Dobbs, who comes to us from the Cathedral of St. Philip.
Why is Easter on a different date every year? And how is that date determined? Easter is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21.
If you think that Easter seems early this year, you are right. The earliest date Easter can be is March 22; the latest is April 25. The last time Easter was on March 22 was in 1818. The next time is 2285. So the earliest we have ever experienced Easter is March 23 in 2008. That won’t happen again until 2160.
Easter occurred on its latest date of April 25 in 1943. Some of us may be here to celebrate when that happens again in 2038. There is a table of the dates of Easter from 1900-2089 on pages 882-883 in the Book of Common Prayer. Or, of course, you can just google it.
Creator God, your waters refresh our bodies and give life to Earth. From the hardness of our hearts bring forth the waters of compassion and care. Open our hearts to the water crisis of our world. Guide us in ways to reduce waste and over consumption of your resources. Teach us to use our sacred waters wisely. Amen.