God is writing a new chapter in the ever-unfolding story of Main Street Church of God. One hundred years since its first page, Jesus is still the central theme. But the plot has thickened as this year’s Easter events broke the mold of the modern era of the church at 4211 Main Street. Where was the traditional sunrise service? What happened to the pitch-in breakfast on Easter morning? Why didn’t the choir present a full-length cantata? But inspirational moments of worship on Good Friday and a special-needs egg hunt on Saturday were just two of several reasons the only thing obviously missing on Sunday morning was Someone in the tomb.
First, the Maundy Thursday service. Always a staple at Main Street Church of God on the Thursday before Easter, the annual time of following Jesus’ example in footwashing (John 13) received additional interest because it landed on a night of the week now known for Thursday Church. Reflective and celebratory songs, relationship-building, and Communion also marked the occasion commemorating the Last Supper. Pastor Don Billey describes the seemingly strange annual experience as he recalls a humbling moment from years ago.
“I was tentative, not sure about this new “thing” that the church was doing. I watched the other men in the group and tried my best to imitate their moves, first sitting in the circle and then removing my shoes. I wasn’t sure what to do next. That’s when Jay—a special needs student in my sixth grade Sunday school class—appeared before me with a basin and a towel. He grinned big, got down on his knees, and gently placed my feet into the basin, one at a time. He wiped them with a towel and then stood to hug my neck. I had difficulty seeing him because of the moisture in my eyes. It was the most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced—not washing someone’s feet, but having someone stoop before me and wash mine.”
“Fast forward more years than I care to admit,” Pastor Don continues, “and replace Jay with Tim, a Christ-follower who loves to serve, loves to sing, and loves God with all his heart. ‘Would it be okay if I were to wash your foot?’ (One foot is currently in a walking boot, and it remained in place.) ‘I would be honored, Tim.’ With the same gentleness, compassion, and servant heart, Tim placed my foot into the basin, rinsed it with the cool water, and wiped it dry with the towel.” What a powerful display of servanthood! What an appropriate precursor to what would be observed the very next day.
Few can remember the last time Main Street Church of God held a Good Friday service. Church leadership determined 2017 was the year to try it again. Instead of a midday service, as had commonly been done in decades prior, an evening service made sense to allow working individuals and families to attend. Multiple dramatic video vignettes, old and new songs describing the moments leading up to Jesus’ death on a cross, and a timely message from Pastor Don comprised the evening. One very special moment took place when Carl Stagner, associate pastor of worship arts, rose to sing “The Power of the Cross” with special guest Adam Howell of the Disciples gospel trio. It was a moment few, including Pastor Carl, will soon forget.
Saturday’s Easter Extravaganza welcomed a surge in participation from the community as children participated in everything from preparing resurrection rolls, to creating cross necklaces, to hearing the true story of Easter, and of course, an Easter egg hunt. What really stood out, however, was the church’s acknowledgement of, and service to, the special needs community.
“When we were advertising the egg hunt on Facebook, a couple of different families inquired about whether or not we would have a special area for individuals with special needs,” Jennifer Crum, associate pastor of children and family ministries explains. “I had not really thought a whole lot about the difficulty many children and adults have when it comes to egg hunts. Some children are wheelchair-bound, have sensory difficulties, vision problems, etc. This was only about three days before the hunt was scheduled, and there was not much time to think about it or prepare a lot of adaptations for special needs. I spoke with one mother of an autistic adult, whom she said functions at about a four-to-eight-year old level. She helped me to understand her family’s needs and situation. I felt like this was an area that Main Street could step up and take some initiative, even on short notice. We set aside 150 eggs and planned a second hunt, after the first, to allow time to set up eggs on picnic tables in the shelter, and get small children (who could be tripping hazards for some) out of the way.”
Jennifer couldn’t have been more overjoyed as she watched those that participated in the special needs hunt. Due to short notice, the event drew only a few, but making a difference in the lives of even a few was more than worth the effort. She looks forward to the possibility of a bigger and better experience for the special needs community next year.
Easter Sunday finally arrived with great celebration and anticipation. For the congregation and leadership alike, it was a deeply meaningful, worshipful, powerful morning of pulling out all the stops—minus the sometimes hectic nature of also having to get up at the crack of dawn, carting around breakfast dishes, all with a choral book in hand. Main Street Church of God dared to do Easter differently this year, and they were not disappointed.
Exciting new things are happening at Main Street Church of God. See for yourself! For more information, contact the church at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.mainstreetcog.net, or call 765-644-6555.