On Sunday I began Holy Week at Holy Cross in Homewood. Palm Sunday is such a busy day that I normally avoid scheduling a visitation on that day, however, my original date at Holy Cross had been snowed out so I moved it. Both services were well attended and I was most impressed with the large number of children at the late service. There was also a large youth acolyte corps, a great children’s choir and some magnificent music from the adult choir. The Passion Gospel was chanted and the drama of moving from the celebration of the Palm Procession to the tragedy of Passion Week was very evident.
Holy Cross itself has recently been through some ups and downs. Their rector and wardens were among the first to visit me after I was elected in October. They shared how the roof of their church was so bad it was uninhabitable. Some significant gifts, emergency funds and loans were quickly assembled. Not only was the roof fixed, damaged plaster on the inside was also repaired. Many of us saw the joy in those parishioners’ faces in the TV news report of a joyous return to their magnificent building on Christmas Eve.
However, that joy was short lived. The snow and cold took its toll on the roof, which although repairable, leaked again, damaging some of the new plaster. But far worse is the parish hall next door which is structurally dangerous. Once again, emergency funds, loans and insurance money are being assembled for there is no choice but to shore up this essential building.
With all this going on, one would expect to find a dispirited group of people, but what I encountered on Palm Sunday was just the opposite. Yes, there was a sense of weariness from their trials, yet the prevailing mood was one of hope and anticipation for the future. Instead of being beaten down by their misfortunes, they are moving full steam ahead to be the church God is calling them to be. They have had their Passion experiences, and now have their sights firmly set on Easter.
As I was driving home from Holy Cross, I could not help but compare life in our diocese to what I observed there. We have had some severe storms recently. We have some congregations whose spiritual roof is leaking. We have some places in need of shoring up. And yet, like the people of Holy Cross, I have found the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh intent on rebuilding its structure and programs and moving full steam ahead, confident in the future.
In other words, everywhere I turn I find Easter people.
Passion Week reminds us that our Lord suffered far more than any of us are called to, endured the worst that could be heaped upon him, even unto death, but then overcame it all in order that we might live. Because he has done so, we know that nothing will overcome us and we will share in his Resurrection.
And so when we gather in our various churches this Easter, 2010, let us be especially thankful that the Risen Lord is so firmly in our midst. And like the good people of Holy Cross, let us resolve to let nothing stop us from being the people God is calling us to be.
After all, we, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, are Easter People!
+Bishop Ken Price