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‘HE IS RISEN, INDEED’ — Good Friday services focus on unity, community with God and others

She recited the prayers, following along in the little booklet that explained the hours of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on Good Friday. She raised her voice in song, joining in the old Latin chants. She knelt before the 14 wooden crosses, each draped in holy purple, pressing her knee in the cool, wet clover in reverence.

Brookhaven’s Mary Foster observed all the Catholic rites at the Stations of the Cross devotional at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

But she’s not Catholic. She hasn’t been since she was little.

“We’re all going to the same place, just by different roads,” said Foster, a member of Macedonia Baptist Church. “I think it so wonderful in this day and age that we can come together for the Savior we all know. And he was here today.”

Just a third of a mile away down Cherokee Street, Sister Eula Thadison stood behind a portable pulpit in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church and began her prayer for the City of Brookhaven.

“Oh, precious heavenly Parent, we come before you today, Father God,” she said.

In a sing-song voice, she expressed a prayer on behalf of those gathered for the third annual Lincoln County Mission Mississippi prayer and praise service. She thanked God for every blessing, for acceptance and guidance, and asked his blessings on the city’s growth.

“Let the growth be of love and fellowship, filled with love and compassion for one another,” she prayed, and the hall echoed with amens.

More than 125 people attended the two Good Friday services, some standing and kneeling in the open air, some sitting around tables, singing and praying in the air conditioning. But the attitudes and aims were all the same — humble gratitude to God and reconciliation with him and other people.

As an organizer of the Mission Mississippi event, the Rev. Anne Matthews of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer prayed that God would work in hearts around the world to eliminate arrogance, hatred and racism.

“Gracism is greater than racism,” she said.

Susan Hood prayed for students, asking the heavenly Father to “encourage them to choose love, mercy and kindness.”

In his prayer for the State of Mississippi, its leaders and its people, Rev. Rich Balkcom of Southway Baptist Church said, “Your Son wasn’t politically correct, but he stood on your word. I pray that this state will not be politically correct, but will stand on your word.”

Standing with the crowd in the yard at St. Francis, Beth DeLaughter of Brookhaven said the event was all about the special weekend that points to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“Jesus saved us from our sins, and this is how we commemorate Him. Good Friday is a very special day, and on Easter Sunday, we’re made new again,” DeLaughter said.

Those gathered at First United Methodist were there to stress what Jesus did was for all people, regardless of gender, skin color, or any other divisive factor.

Just before Matthews dismissed the group to return to jobs or other obligations, she led attendees in reading the Mission Mississippi creed printed out on purple sheets of paper on each table. It included the commitment, “I offer unconditional love for all who join me.”

That’s what Easter is about, according to Christian tradition. Though the dates of the annual celebration are not an actual anniversary of the historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, they are days set aside to commemorate the events. The spiritual emphasis is on the sacrificial atonement of the Son of God on behalf of sinful mankind, and then his subsequent resurrection and the blessing of eternal life offered to his followers. Greetings of “He is risen!” coupled with replies of “He is risen, indeed!” are commonly shared.

Even the non-religious celebrations of an Easter bunny and eggs focus on new life and rebirth. It’s a time to put aside differences and focus on life and love.

After both Good Friday events near downtown Brookhaven, people shared handshakes and hugs, smiles and goodbyes, and filtered out toward their vehicles. Turning his face up into the sunshine and breeze, a curly-haired man smiled and said, “It is a beautiful day, a beautiful day, indeed.”