Preparing for Palm Sunday

Published 12:06 am Friday, April 3, 2009

This Sunday, Christians will re-enact one of the most important events in religious history.

The days Jesus Christ spent before his persecution and death will be commemorated on Palm Sunday at several churches in Selma.

“It’s an important event because it’s the beginning of Christ’s final journey before he was put on trial and crucified,” said the Rev. Caroll Plourde, S.S.E., pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

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This celebration marks the beginning of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday. Palm branches are a traditional symbol of victory in the Christian faith.

“That celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday,” said the Rev. James E. Elliott Jr., interim rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “Weather permitting, that’s done outside. Then we move inside where the service changes and is a commemoration of the cross. It continues with a reading of the Passion story that is done by lay people at the church. Holy Eucharist, the communion, is included in both the services.”

Sarah Morelock, organist and music director for First Presbyterian Church, said the church will incorporate both the celebration of Christ’s entrance and his ensuing suffering and persecution, known as Passion.

“Our service moves from the joy and the throngs of the people praising Jesus at the beginning of the service, and we will move toward the cross during the last part of the service,” Morelock said.

Still the question lingers: where do the branches come from?

St. Paul’s and Cathedral of Christ the King order their palm branches from Alpha Church Supply and Gifts in Birmingham, which Plourde said gets the branches from the Holy Land.

Other churches get them from local florists. Albritton’s Flowers owner Bill Albritton said the palm branches his store procures are grown in South America and Mexico. The branches are usually available Friday or Saturday just prior to Palm Sunday.

“It’s a little bit of a busy day,” said Albritton, who also has a shop in Camden. “Easter is a little bit busier.”

The same is true for Fred’s Flower and Gift Shop. Between palms on Sunday and Easter lilies, the shop catches a bit of rush this time of year, said Joseph Stoudenmeyer.

But the green, leafy fronds are far from dispensable once the service is over.

Parishioners at Cathedral of Christ the King make crosses out of the branches and keep them until the next Ash Wednesday. They burn the palm branches into ash, which is marked on each worshiper’s forehead as a sign of repentance.

Christ the King associate pastor the Rev. Brent Keith said keeping Palm Sunday is an important part of God’s mandate.

“God has always called his people to re-enact things, whether it’s the Passover, or throughout the Old Testament you saw re-enactments of festivals and feasts,” Keith said. “Palm Sunday is like a re-enactment of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. And so that’s what we’re recognizing.”