Faith Works 4-8-17
Processions around and in and through
This weekend, Hebron Christian Church celebrates their 150th anniversary with special events through the weekend and a guest preacher, Rev. Dr. Tamara Rodenberg, president of Bethany College, to anchor their Sunday worship.
I was privileged to serve as their pastor for five years myself, and know their history, starting as it does with a returned Civil War veteran named Thomas Madden who wanted something more out of life at age 24 than just a good career.
Deacon Street in Hebron, that runs past the elementary school, is named for him or rather the role he held in the Christian Church; he was never college or seminary trained, but his preaching built up that congregation along with the occasional visiting "trained" evangelist; the church he helped establish there sent a Timothy (a youth raised out of a congregation who goes into ministry) of about 24 to Newark, where George Crites became the first parson for the church that I now serve, founded in 1884. Crites went on into state society work, and Thomas Madden stepped in to help sustain what became Central Christian in Newark through the first decade of the 1900s, skating some eight to ten miles in his seventies during the winter along the frozen Ohio & Erie Canal. He'd preach for us in Newark, then strapped on his skates to be home with Virginia by dinner.
I think about his journeys both winter and summer when I drive Rt. 79 between Heath and Hebron, and the faith that kept him going, which keeps us going today.
Sunday afternoon, and Monday, we have another cycle of "open house" days at Octagon Earthworks, part of the 2,000 year old Newark Earthworks complex, a site of pilgrimage back and forth from Chillicothe, we believe from the evidence, 60 miles one way. The double-walled processional ways can be traced in fields and forests behind the shopping zone in Heath, and on old maps and memories over fields down past Hebron and the National Road.
As we prepare to give tours for the more infrequently opened portion, at the end of N. 33rd St. and Parkview Rd., during the afternoon hours tomorrow and Monday as well, I think about the years we've been doing tours officially now, since 2000. In those seventeen years, we've gained new "friends of the mounds" and had others move on, move away, some pass away – and those memories are even greener in the spring, with the budding trees and flowering shrubs and occasional patch of spring beauties in the grass reminding us of walks long ago, in our memory and in the land's memory as well.
But it is Palm Sunday, after all. The start of a week of Christian observances all well known, if not always generally understood. The beginning is a commemoration of the triumphant entry of Jesus of Nazareth into the royal city of Israel, Jerusalem.
Were they celebrating who Jesus was, or hoping for something more? Do we celebrate with an understanding of the bittersweet nature of the regal symbols presented to the man entering the gates of the walled city, or are we just caught up in a traditional celebration ourselves?
And it's not only Christians who have wondered, on reading or hearing the Gospel accounts, if some of the same cheering voices shouting "Hosanna!" would be jeering out a "Crucify him!" later that same week. They may have been largely different crowds with separate agendas, but I wonder.
A procession, from the Mount of Olives down through the Kidron Valley and up to the Lions' Gate. Well, that's what it's called today, though it's new. It's only 500 years old, which in Jerusalem is new. But somewhere in that vicinity, a triumphant entry on donkeyback, palms waving all around, and a man dimly seen at the head of the parade of people.
Come Friday, a different procession out the opposite side of the city, to a skull-like knoll of rock peering above a garden patch studded with rock-hewn tombs. No triumph there, only defeat, and desolation, and death.
Yet in time, we would come to see the one obvious celebration as somewhat mistaken, and the sorrowful scene to be at the heart of humanity's greatest triumph. It seems that some processions, some parades, you can't just watch to understand, but you have to find your place and participate yourself to really see where it's all going.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about processions you've been a part of at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.