First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jerry Light, Sr., right, and Church Street United Methodist Church Pastor Reba Wiley pose for the camera outside of First Presbyterian Church Thursday after leading the Maundy Thursday service. (Sarah Robinson | Times-Journal)
First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jerry Light, Sr., right, and Church Street United Methodist Church Pastor Reba Wiley pose for the camera outside of First Presbyterian Church Thursday after leading the Maundy Thursday service. (Sarah Robinson | Times-Journal)

Community service sets the stage for Easter celebration

Published 7:17pm Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three churches in downtown Selma came together Thursday to recognize the crucifixion of Christ.

Pastors of Church Street United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church conducted a Maundy Thursday service at First Presbyterian Church Thursday followed by Tenebrae: A Service of Darkness.

“The Tenebrae Service is taking people up through the story of passion week and what happened with those last few days with our Lord,” First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Jerry Light Sr. said. “To me, what’s so moving is it gets darker during that time and you realize, ‘Oh my goodness, this is what happen.’”

Also known as Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, which is celebrated the Thursday before Easter, commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus that same day, Light said.

During the service, Light and Church Street United Methodist Church Pastor Reba Wiley conducted a communion service in which they blessed each member of the congregation with bread and juice, which represented the body and blood of Jesus.

Afterward, they held the Tenebrae service where residents read aloud scriptures of the Bible that described the last days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion with choirs of the Church Street Methodist Street Methodist, First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church singing hymns.

The room grew darker throughout the ceremony as the 14 candles were extinguished one by one to symbolize the diminishing light of the world as Christ departs from it.

At the very end of the service, everyone left the room in silence and in darkness with the last words uttered being, “May Jesus Christ, who for our sake became obedient unto death, yes, even death on a cross, keep you and strengthen you this night, and forevermore. Amen.”

Benton resident Kitty Williamson, who attended the service to support a musician who performed Thursday, said Tenebrae is a great way to prepare for Easter.

“I think it helps us get in the right frame of mind to celebrate Easter,” Williamson said.

The joint service was a part of the Holy Week celebration, which falls on the days between Palm Sunday and Easter, to observe Jesus’ journey to the cross. Multiple church leaders in the downtown Selma meet to host lunches, services and more.

“We meet together and fellowship and that helps us to bring the community together,” Light said.

Wiley said she, like Light, agreed having leaders of multiple churches come together to praise God together was beneficial for the community.

“Why not?” Wiley asked. “We all work for the same boss.”

Light said they are working on also including churches outside of the Selma downtown area.

“I told them the family of God is bigger than four blocks,” Light said. “We’re trying to change some patterns. We need to cross over.”

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