Christian denominations celebrate the start of Holy Week


Photo Gallery: Palm Sunday Blessing at Zion Lutheran Church

PITTSFIELD -- Palm sprigs raised high, the fronds flapping in the breeze, members of Zion Lutheran Church celebrated Palm Sunday and the start of Christianity's holiest time of the year.

Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, before his crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday, which is next weekend. The gospels record the arrival of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street to honor him as their long-awaited Messiah and king.

Zion Lutheran pastor, Rev. Timothy Weisman, who blessed the congregation's palms in front of The Common next door to the church on First Street, noted Christ didn't receive -- nor did he expect -- the typical red-carpet treatment afforded royalty of his day.

"He wasn't that kind of king," said associate pastor, Rev. Andrew Barnett.

"Jesus came to Jerusalem for people like us," Weisman added during the regular indoor Sunday service.

Zion Lutheran Church was among dozens of local churches who held Palm Sunday celebrations which lead off Holy Week for the Christian faiths. The church was among four scheduled to hold a joint Blessing of the Palms outdoors, but it was canceled Sunday morning due to the threat of rainy weather.

For the Jewish faith, this week also begins Pesach, or Passover, an eight-day observance starting sundown tonight that recalls the Jews exodus from Egypt after generations of slavery three millennia ago.

While Holy Week and Passover vastly differ in commemoration, local clergy say they are historically and spiritually tied together.

Easter is always on a Sunday -- the day of Christ's Resurrection -- and after the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, because the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) in the Christian calendar occurred on Passover.

The fact Easter and Passover occur between late March and late April is also significant according to Rabbi Joshua Breindel of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield.

"They both are springtime holidays ... about new life after winter," Breindel said.

The link between Passover and the Easter season afforded Breindel and Rev. Shelia Sholes-Ross, pastor of Pitts-
field's First Baptist Church the opportunity to swap speaking engagements. Breindel spoke during a recent Lenten service at First Baptist and on Friday, Sholes-Ross returned the favor before members of Anshe Amunim.

Breindel says, traditionally, the last Sabbath before Passover is a time for guest speakers to share teachings and words of wisdom.

Sholes-Ross said she spoke of freedom and partnership, the latter she hopes her church and the temple will forge beyond the holidays, especially involving the issues of the day such as gun violence.

"We are moved by issues like Columbine and in my home state of North Carolina at Camp Lejeune, but we must come together," she noted. Sholes-Ross referring to the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado 15 years ago this month and last week's shooting at Camp Lejeune where naval investigators believe one Marine accidentally killed a fellow Marine.

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