WOODSTOCK – Sunday marks the day where Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ through church services and lunches.
Members of the Emanuel Lutheran Church thought they would try something a little different this year leading into Easter Sunday. The church implemented a “Walk to Jerusalem” – a project to get the church’s congregation to be more physically active – and a Passover Seder the Thursday evening before Easter.
Pastor Nathan Robinson said Dorothy “Dottie” Farley, who serves as the faith community nurse at the church, came up with the idea.
“Dottie had been working with us to come up with ideas to engage with the congregation with healthy living,” Robinson said. “We settled on Lent, which is a season of preparation for Easter. She said we should make it 12 weeks this first year just to try it. It would give us plenty of time to get to Jerusalem. It’s a long journey.”
Farley said that she got the idea for the “Walk to Jerusalem” when she was training to be the church’s faith community nurse in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“It was one of the things they talked about, and I said I could do that,” she said. “I came back and Nate and I talked about it and we decided it was something we could do here.”
Farley said the “Walk to Jerusalem” is an imaginary trip that the church takes that helps people get more active during the winter. She said that people who took part in the project would write down the activities they’ve done, including walking and exercising.
“When people write it down for anything, after doing it for a time, it becomes a habit,” she said. “It’s one way to get people into the habit of exercising.”
Farley said that another aspect of the project was making up scenarios during the trip to keep the participants involved. Each week would also deal with a theme, like love, stress, and wisdom.
“I would make up stories with the people involved in the walk, so they would look and see if they were in there today,” she said. “It’s just a funny way to get them involved.”
Robinson said that over 100 people from the congregation participated in the project, ranging from children to members who were physically unable to do much.
“We gave credit for walking, exercising, and physical therapy,” he said. “For our home-bound residents and those who were physically unable but wanted to take part, we gave them credit for participating in Lenten worship and bible studies.”
Robinson said that Farley encouraged group participation during the walk.
“She set it up where, if we walked together as a family or walked together with a group of friends, you get your mileage doubled,” he said.
Farley said that the people who participated found the project a lot of fun.
“I’ve had people run home from church to get their cards to fill out and bring them back to me,” she said. “As a family, we’ve been playing together and it feels good when a family plays together.”
Robinson said, during the conception of the “Walk to Jerusalem,” Farley also came up with the idea of including a Passover Seder, which would coincide with the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples on Maundy Thursday. A Passover Seder is a feast to celebrate the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus.
“We thought it would tie in well with the “Walk to Jerusalem” and Jesus’ last supper,” he said.
Robinson said that, while the Seder the church was taking part in wasn’t a full Seder, he wanted to make it as close as possible. He said that, while some elements of the church’s Seder were a little different, most of the service was the same as a normal Seder.
“I had a Jewish friend of mine come in and read the Hebrew prayers and her son participated by asking the questions that the youngest child of the family would ask as a part of the Passover meal,” he said.
The Seder also featured a small feast and the lighting of candles. Robinson said that it was a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the congregation to experience a different religious cultural event together as a faith community.
“We talk all the time about Jesus having the Last Supper,” he said. “The Last Supper comes out of a context in which Jesus was eating the Passover meal with his disciples. We thought this would be a wonderful way to do that and culminate all of our hard work in walking to Jerusalem and have a little bit of Jerusalem in Woodstock.”
Robinson said that the church would be holding its usual Easter weekend activities including a community Easter egg hunt today from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and on Sunday a traditional Easter Sunday service starting at 8:30 a.m., a breakfast starting at 9:30 a.m., and another service featuring the choir starting at 11 a.m.