HED:Community finds unity in Christ
By John Armistead
Worshipers of many different denominations and churches gathered Friday at noon in the sanctuary of Tupelo's St. Luke United Methodist Church for the Community Good Friday Service.
The Rev. Lewis McGee, pastor of Mount Pleasant Chesterville Missionary Baptist Church, delivered the sermon. McGee posed the question, "What's so good about Good Friday?"
"If humanity had sunk so low as to crucify God's only son, what's so good about this day?" he asked. "Never, oh never, never in the history of mankind had it ever been so dark. ... Jesus the savior of the world had died."
McGee spoke of the biblical account of an earthquake that shook the temple in Jerusalem and ripped the veil concealing the holy of holies, the temple's most sacred site.
"Before only the priest could go in and stand before God," he said. "But now all men - black, white, Jews, and Gentiles - can stand before God themselves."
Frances Clayton, a first-year University of Virginia student who's home for spring break in Tupelo, commented afterward on the service's unifying spirit.
"I think it's really important to bridge racial gaps, and the church is the place to do that," she said. "It's real exciting to me to come home and see that taking place."
Like the Communitywide Thanksgiving Service, the Community Good Friday Service was established more than 20 years ago during a time of racial unrest in Tupelo.
The Greater Tupelo Ministerial Association formed in that time by a merger of the black ministerial association and the white ministerial association sponsored the service.
The ministers wanted to give people an opportunity to worship together across racial lines, and, at the same time, across denominational lines. Seven different denominations participated in the first service.
According to the Gospels, Jesus died on a cross Friday afternoon, and was buried in a borrowed tomb before sundown. As early as the second century, Christians marked the Friday before Easter with fasting and penance.
Historically, Good Friday services are conducted with prayer, Scripture reading and the veneration of the cross.
It has become customary in many communities in Britain and the United States to hold common services on Good Friday as an expression of Christian unity.
An offering was taken at Friday's service for Samaritan Services, a cooperative ministry of Lee County churches which provides financial assistance to people whose needs aren't met by local and state agencies.