I used to think Easter celebrations in New York were extreme, but that’s before we moved to North Carolina. Up north the whole choir would sing at both of the big festival services. Only occasionally did the early service start before 8 or 8:30. Before there was Easter breakfast for the entire congregation, we ladies of the choir baked things for us to nosh on between services. The late service was very crowded, so that sometimes it took almost two hours to get through the lengthy communion service. After that, we’d all go to our respective family dinners. It was not at all unusual for our family to have 30 to 35 people. I’m thankful that John and I never hosted that dinner. We enjoyed being with everyone and got up the next morning to go to work as if we’d had a relaxing weekend.
You have to be hardy and resilient for Easter in the mountains. Our daughter would say we got up at “O dark hundred”. Our alarms rang out at 4 am. We were on the dark road shortly after 5, when you could have sworn it was still the middle of the night. The Easter vigil at St. Mark’s in downtown Asheville began promptly at 6 – outside! in the dark! with light rain falling! We each had a foot long candle, nothing like the slender little thing you’d get for a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We were in for the long haul.
Even dark days can have little bursts of joy. I found myself standing beside our friend James, and the day began to glow in the dark for me. Over a year ago I happened to see his unusual last name in the bulletin. A Lutheran church was the last place I would have expected to find the seminary student who had been the summer pastor in our Presbyterian church in the 50s. We had a great reunion, he, my brother and me with our spouses. Bob and I had last seen Jim, as we knew him then, at his and Margaret’s wedding over 50 years ago. We were greatly saddened at Margaret’s death last year. We had only begun to know her. Last Christmas we knew that James was downsizing and moving into smaller quarters in February. I didn’t email him, because things can get hectic when one moves. We went back to St. Mark’s for the Maundy Thursday service and talked to James after it. He had marvelous news. He announced he was getting married. In the dark on Easter morning, James introduced us to Susan on the steps of the church. What joy! She is also a retired Presbyterian pastor whose spouse of many years died a year or so ago. They have known each other for some time. During the service they read a selection from Genesis together, the account of creation. James read the majority of the words, while Susan read the words of God. We teased them about it later. She chatted with us before having to dash to her church where she would sing in the choir for two more services. The wedding is next week!
Half the vigil was totally by candlelight. Suddenly the lights blazed as two trumpeters sounded a fanfare from the back of the church. It was Easter, and we made the rafters ring with the joy of resurrection through music and liturgy.
From St. Mark’s, we went to the 8:30 service at Emmanuel, a church in West Asheville. They were in full Easter mode with a brass choir, bell choir, tenor soloist, and senior choir. By mid-morning, many of our sweet spots of worship had been touched. What a day!
We had Easter dinner with our marvelous neighbors. Amy lives next door at the end of the street. Shawn, Bob, and Logan live across the street, and Connie and Dave have the first house in our development. Denise, Bob’s sister-in-law, lives in the next town. It was great fun getting to know her. The toy camera wanted to photograph all the food they brought, but I insisted he would bite off more than he could chew. If you are hungry, stop reading here. We had chips and dips, ham, broccoli casserole, rolls, corn, Asian salad, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, lemon-lime jello salad, cherry/apple pie, and carrot cake. No one went away hungry. All of us had good manners, but Logan (5) shone. He sat through that long meal without squirming or fidgeting. He even asked permission to eat the chocolate bunny that marked his place!
I was glad the folks left bit by bit. It would be a jolt if everyone walked out the door at the same time. You’d go from party high to silence. Amy needed to prepare for company coming in a few hours. The Shawn/Bob contingent had family to see, but Connie and Dave had time to sit on the porch for a while. What a lovely, satisfying day it had been! I’m thrilled I don’t have to get up and go to work tomorrow, acting as if I’d had a relaxing weekend.