This week, many area churches will celebrate Holy Week, reflecting on the foundation of their Christian faith. The Rev. Tony Elder, pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church, said this week is a special opportunity to remember the greatest act of love the world will ever know.
"It is also a time to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, the most powerful witness to Jesus' uniqueness as the Son of God, as well as grounds of our hope and assurance of us having victory over death and experiencing a glorious life heaven beyond the grave."
Although each church may choose to begin their Easter week differently, many celebrate by reading scriptures about Jesus Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Events may include special songs, readings, an invitation to hold palm branches and process together into the sanctuary.
Myra Welch, a longtime Rockdale County resident and member of Conyers First United Methodist in Olde Town, said she enjoys the activities on Palm Sunday.
"I love watching the children march through the sanctuary waving palm branches, so proud and happy to be a part of the celebration. I think that it makes us all feel like a child again and reminds us that we are all God's children. He loves us more than we can imagine," Welch said.
In addition to the Palm Sunday events, many churches demonstrate humility and compassion by washing feet. Following the example of Jesus, one person will pour water over another person's bare foot. Some churches will have a small group participate.
Others may invite everyone who would like to come forward. Barb Roberts, a member of St. Pius X Catholic Church, is surprised how something so simple could be so moving.
"As the water trickled gently over me, I felt so peaceful. I can't even imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus knelt before them," said Roberts.
Other activities during Holy Week include the Sedar meal, Maundy Thursday, Stations of the Cross and Service of Darkness.
The Sedar meal during reminds us of the Old Testament story of God's grace in history and the deliverance of the Hebrews.
This is commonly referred to as The Last Supper. The Seder is similar to the last one that Jesus shared with his disciples.
Maundy Thursday is the day when the faithful recall and celebrate the Lord's Supper. Stations of the Cross involves listening to a series of readings and meditations on the suffering and death of Jesus. There may be as many as 14 stations, accompanied by pictures or statues to view while reflecting.
During the Service of Darkness, a series of scripture readings and meditations are read aloud while lights or candles are gradually extinguished to help communicate the darkness of life without Jesus. The service ends in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus. Often the service concludes with a loud noise symbolizing the closing of Jesus' tomb. Andy Futch, family life director at Heritage Hills Baptist Church, said it is very powerful when you think about the darkness without God and how we need his light.
The Easter Vigil is held the night before Easter and is a time of reflection and waiting. Tami Wegemer, a member of St. Pius X Catholic Church said their service is very moving.
"We enter the mass in darkness, as if we are entering the tomb. We ask for the saints to pray for us. As we transition to the light of the world, we rejoice with people who are joining our faith community.
There are so many things shared, sung and celebrated that it's hard to believe that two hours goes by so fast. I love it when the warm lights return and we celebrate communion with our new church members," Wegemer said.
More than pretty dresses and Sunday dinners, Easter is the highlight of the Easter Week. Churches celebrate the resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ. Ron Holmes, member of First Baptist Church in Conyers said he loves the messages of Easter.
"It causes me to remember and focus on Christ's suffering and sacrifice for us. Sorrow is replaced with joy and excitement as I think of His resurrection and His promise to return for us," said Holmes.