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Holy Week promotes community

A group of local churches is holding fast to the belief that the most special time of year for Christians is more significant when they share it as a community.

The downtown churches of Selma are again this year holding Holy Week services. The weeklong schedule begins Palm Sunday, April 5 and welcomes people regardless of religious affiliation, race or nationality. The services end Easter Sunday.

The five downtown churches — Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Church Street United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — will each hold services.

“We actually have more than the five downtown churches that are involved in these ecumenical activities,” said Carolyn Parks, secretary of Church Street United Methodist. “It’s just that we’re the five largest churches, and that’s why we are the ones that host the services. That way more people are able to attend.”

Nearly a dozen other churches in Selma representing several different denominations will also participate: Second Baptist Church, the Salvation Army, Crosspoint Christian Church, St. Paul’s C.M.E. Church, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Tabernacle of Praise Church, First Christian Church, First Baptist on Martin Luther King Street and Memorial United Methodist Church.

The week begins with a Palm Sunday service scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Church Street United Methodist.

Community-wide services at noon are scheduled in the following order: Monday at First Baptist (Lauderdale Street); Tuesday at First Presbyterian; Wednesday at Church Street United Methodist; Thursday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic; and Good Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal. These services take place during lunch to make it convenient for people to attend during their lunch hour. Meals will be served at each, with the exception of the Friday service because the Episcopalian faith requires fasting on Good Friday.

There is also a 6:30 p.m. communion service Thursday at Church Street United Methodist.

The final services are set for Sunday, April 12. There is a 6 a.m. sunrise service in the St. Paul’s Episcopal courtyard, weather permitting, and a 10:30 a.m. service at Church Street United Methodist.

The services are not meant to conflict with the ones other churches have scheduled, said the Rev. James E. Elliott Jr., interim rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal. Rather, this is a way to encourage fellowship among several different groups of people.

“It is intended to be inclusive, so we’re trying very carefully not to compete together as churches, although there are some services we certainly need to have together as individual congregations,” Elliott said. “I know the other clergy have echoed this to me, as well. All the community, regardless of what their denomination or anything else, is welcome to come and participate in any of those services.”

Jane Driggers, secretary for First Baptist Church on Lauderdale Street, said she has noticed participation in Holy Week grow during the last four years. She was moved to tears when reflecting on the importance of the week.

“I think that it’s a wonderful service, and word has spread in the community,” Driggers said. “I think it’s an informative time; I think it’s a meditative time. It’s a very heartwarming time. It’s a time that we as Christians all get together and truly think about what Jesus did for us. I think the most special time of the year for Christians is during Holy Week and then Easter Sunday.”

The week is also a good opportunity for people to reflect on their personal relationship with God.

“This gives some people time when they can come in during the day and they can stop and just have some quiet time if they like and have communion, or not have communion. It’s up to them,” said the Rev. Ron Gordon, associate pastor of Crosspoint Christian Church. “We don’t do anything special. It’s just a time when people can just get away from the cares of this world.”