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Palm Sunday services in Birmingham marked by processions to commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem
Published: Sunday, April 01, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Sunday, April 01, 2012, 7:37 AM
In preparation for Palm Sunday today, church member Lila McGahey helped set up the palm plants at the front of Cathedral Church of the Advent on Friday afternoon. (The Birmingham News/Greg Garrison)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Church member Lila McGahey wrapped burlap around the base of potted palm plants on Friday afternoon inside Cathedral Church of the Advent, preparing for today's Palm Sunday services.
The bustle and excitement of Christianity's holiest week has begun. "I can't believe it's Palm Sunday already," McGahey said.
Christians worldwide begin the observance of Holy Week today with Palm Sunday services commemorating the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before his crucifixion nearly 2,000 years ago.
On Birmingham's Southside, members of Highlands United Methodist Church will gather in Brother Bryan Park at 10:15 a.m., with children carrying palms and leading a donkey back to the church at Five Points South for the 10:30 a.m. service.
Parishioners at Cathedral Church of the Advent this afternoon will take part in the annual Easter Walk, with dramatic depictions of the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
"It's a chance to prepare their hearts for Holy Week and Jesus' death and the hope of his Resurrection," said Elizabeth Wilson, director of children's ministries at Cathedral Church of the Advent.
"We hope that they will experience some of what Jesus went through in his last week," said the Rev. Joseph Gibbes, canon for Christian education at Advent. "We want children and adults to understand, ultimately, what Jesus went through, and to know that Jesus did was for them. and for their sins."
Members of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham will join Catholics at the front steps of St. Paul's Cathedral this morning at 10:30 a.m. Catholic Bishop Robert J. Baker will give a brief sermon, then members of both congregations will carry palms in a procession around the block, accompanied by a bagpiper.
"To be together and affirm that at the core we are one church of Jesus Christ, despite any doctrinal or liturgical diffferences, people find assurance and hope in that," said the Rev. Shannon Webster, pastor of First Presbyterian Church. "We're expressing our unity in faith; at the same time it's a confession of our sin. It's a mixed celebration, one that is touched by the shadow of what is to come later in the week as we remember Christ's passion."
On the first Palm Sunday, the people of Jerusalem celebrated Jesus as he arrived on a donkey to celebrate Passover. But by the end of the week, many of them were in the crowd calling for his crucifixion.
Many anticipated he would lead an overthrow of the Roman rulers, Webster said. But he came as a different kind of savior. "He was not what they expected."
Today's processions recall those events.
"On the one hand, everybody loves a parade," Webster said. "On the other hand, a lot of parades still turn into a betrayal of Christ."
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