Durham County

Following the cross

Parishioners from downtown churches participate in Palm Sunday procession and blessing

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“Follow the cross” was the charge to the members of three downtown church congregations who gathered Sunday for the annual Palm Sunday parade. The charge, which each minister gave to the parishioners, was both literal — the parisioners followed a crucifer who led the parade — as well as symbolic.

In the Christian faith, Palm Sunday commemorates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem with the crowds crying “Hosanna.” It is the beginning of Holy Week, leading up to the commemoration of the central event of the faith -- the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Three downtown churches participate in the annual procession -- First Presbyterian Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, and Trinity United Methodist Church. The procession began in the parking lot of First Presbyterian. As parishioners took palm fronds from a bucket, the Rev. Jonah Kendall of St. Philip’s led the blessing of the palms. Kendall led the prayer asking the Lord to “bless these branches and make them holy. May we, also, carrying them from this place be living branches of the one stem, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

The parade then proceeded to Roxboro Street to Main Street, where the Rev. Susanne Priddy of Trinity United Methodist led the blessing of First Presbyterian and its different ministries. From First Presbyterian, the congregants made their way east on Main Street to St. Philip’s Episcopal, where the Rev. Sam Miglarese of First Presbyterian blessed St. Philip’s church and its ministries. From there, the congregation made its way up Queen Street to Liberty Street, across Roxboro to Trinity United Methodist, where the Rev. Marilyn Hedgpeth of First Presbyterian Church blessed the church and its ministries.

Hedgpeth made note of the churches’ long history, and at each station, each minister took note of the churches’ longevity and social ministries. First Presbyterian has been active at Roxboro and Main streets since 1871, according to a program from the procession. First Presbyterian’s ministries include a day school and outreach to Iglesia Emanuel. St. Philip’s, at Dillard and Main streets, has been active since 1879, and its ministries include the Urban Ministries of Durham. Trinity United Methodist has been operating at North Church Street since 1861, and its ministries include Habitat for Humanity and Open Table, which feeds the hungry.

At the end of the blessings, the congregants sang the hymn “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” then proceeded to the services.

The annual procession reminds members of all three churches of their history and connections, and of the meaning of Palm Sunday, parade participants said. The procession “brings us a little closer to what happened when Jesus” rode into Jerusalem, said Marie Montague of Trinity United Methodist. It brings members of the faith “closer to reality,” she said.

“I love this because this service reminds us of the connections that exist between our congregations,” said Leigh Bordley, a member of St. Philip’s. “We work together year-round in these ministries, and this is a great reminder of those connections,” she said.

For Laszlo Boer, Palm Sunday is a reminder to “be glad. ... Luck from God. Happy. Blessed.”

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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