While upcoming events are listed on our church calendar, below is a brief overview of the First Methodist Monroe church year including special seasons, annual celebrations, and how we observe them as Methodists. We also celebrate Holy Communion the first Sunday of each month.
The beginning of the Christian year is the First Sunday of Advent. The day is set as the Sunday closest to St. Andrews (Nov. 30). The earliest written accounts of Advent can be traced by to the 6th century. The name Advent is taken from the Latin, Adventus is means ‘coming’. This is a time of preparation remembering the coming of the Messiah as foretold by Isaiah, and yet we also prepare ourselves for the second coming of the Messiah.
The paraments (Altar clothes), that hang on our Lectern, Pulpit, and Altar are the color of Royal Blue. The color royal blue in our roman heritage is the color of Mary, the mother of Jesus, but in our use the color is symbolic of the more ancient use of the royal house of Judah. On our paraments in the center of the Altar piece is the symbolic Star of David flanked by the Fleur de lis, another ancient symbol of the Judean royal house. The fleur de lis is also a Christian symbol for the Holy Trinity, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). On our Lectern and Pulpit the fleur de lis is in triplicate forming a large triangle, also the symbol of the Trinity.
The season of Advent is made up of the four Sundays that precede Christmas Day. For each Sunday in Advent we light a candle on our Advent Wreath to mark the day. There are four candles, one for each Sunday and each having a special meaning, Love, Hope, Joy and Peace. On Christmas Eve the center candle, the Christ Candle is lit and at the close of the service the light of the Christ Candle is passed to all in the sanctuary as Silent Night is sung.
THE HANGING OF THE GREENS
A special service held the evening of the first Sunday of Advent, where we adorn God’s house in preparation for the coming of His Son. This beautiful service combines the history and meanings of the sanctuary adornments and beautiful music provided by our choirs to give a joyous start to the Advent Season.
TASTES OF THE SEASON
Following our Hanging of the Greens service, we celebrate the beginning of Advent with our special “Tastes of the Season” celebration! Hosted by our many Sunday School classes & Small Groups, each with different dishes and goodies to share, this is a fun way for us all to come together and start the season with fellowship.
CHRISTMAS FOR THE CHILDREN
One Sunday during Advent, we have one combined service at 10am. All choirs perform at this special service and all attendees are asked to bring a gift for a child ages birth – 17 years, wrapped and labeled as to what it is and what age is appropriate. We then deliver these gifts to the Salvation Army, who distributes the gifts to under-served served children in the twin cities area.
Christmas Eve marks the beginning of the Christmas Celebration. This time in the church year is also known as Christmastide which lasts for 12 days. We celebrate with three Christmas Eve services:
A special service for children and their families. There is fun music, videos, and story time. The service concludes with the telling of the Christmas story in a unique way.
CANDLELIGHT COMMUNION SERVICE
This is a beautiful high and holy service of Communion. The beauty of the sanctuary and liturgy combine with the music of the Chancel Choir and Harpist, culminating in passing the flame from the Christ candle & the tolling of the bells at midnight, to make this the highlight of the Christmas season.
Christmas Day being the first day of Christmas. During this time we reflect on the birth of Christ so long ago in Bethlehem.
The color for Christmastide is white. The paraments are all changed to white to symbolize the purity of Christ.
Epiphany is Greek meaning Manifestation. This is a time of new beginnings as we remember the Star that signaled the Magi that the New King was born. We celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday before the day of Epiphany, Jan. 6th. The color for Epiphany Sunday is green, which symbolizes the earth coming back to life after winter.
Common time occurs at several times during the year. Following Epiphany Sunday, we have a short period of common time. The color during this time remains green, and we refer to the Sunday’s during this time as a number after Epiphany, for example “the fourth Sunday after Epiphany”. The color only changes during common time on Communion Sunday, which is the first Sunday of each month.
The color then changes to white for that Sunday.
Lent is observed in the Christian Calendar as the forty days leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday. This is a time of fasting, serving others and in-depth reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus. The Christian church began to celebrate this season of the church year very early in our history. The earliest mention of this period occurs in the Cannons of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It may have grown out of the custom used by the early church to initiate converts and then go through Baptism as the final celebration before Easter. Nonetheless it is an important part of our Christian practice as we look back at Christ’s life and ministry as we strive to be better through fasting and penitence. Though in the early church the fasting was very strict, today fasting may be giving up a bad habit or something we love like sweets, and then doing something good for someone in it’s place.
The color for the season of Lent is purple. Purple, also a symbol of royalty.
During this time the bright and large brass cross is removed from the Altar and a life sized cross made of wood is attached. The empty cross is draped in a long purple fabric to remind us of the royal robe that was placed on Christ at this trial. The empty cross reminds us that he has risen, even though we remember the horror of his last week.
This service marks the beginning of Lent and a time of reflection on the life, ministry and sacrifice of Christ. Entering the Lenten season with clean hearts and a renewed focus on a penitent life was very important to early Christians. It is the imposition of ashes upon the forehead that symbolizes our penitence and struggle to lead a righteous life based on the example of Christ. The palm branches from the previous years’ Palm Sunday are burned in the Caldaria which is placed in front of the Altar. The ashes are gathered up into a silver vessel and prepared on the Altar and Blessed. Those in attendance who wish to have the ashes imposed on their forehead come forward and then may pray at the Altar rail. This is an act of repentance. As the ashes are placed on the forehead in the sign of a cross the words are spoken to the congregant, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return”. A poignant reminder of just how and who created us.
Palm Sunday begins Holy Week. On this Sunday we remember the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah. The day begins with the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn). In ancient times this marked the change of time or season. This is followed by the procession of the children waiving palm branches.
Holy Week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. During Holy Week we more closely look at the last week of the life of Christ. Each day a service can be held with a specific theme as per the Gospel accounts of that week. Here at First Methodist Monroe, we focus on Thursday through our Maundy Thursday service. Here we reflect on our Jewish heritage in the Passover Meal as well as through Holy Communion. Also incorporated into the end of this service is a portion of the Good Friday litugry, as we strip the Altar and sanctuary of all adornments.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Also know as Eastertide, it lasts until Pentecost which is the fiftieth day following Passover. The color of Eastertide is white. The large wooden cross that rises from the Altar is now draped in a shimmering white shroud as remembrance that death could not hold Him for He is Risen! We celebrate Easter with 4 services:
Sunrise Service in Gloria Garden
Easter begins with our Sunrise Service scheduled at the time the sun is to break over the horizon, in remembrance of the women coming to the tomb early that first Easter to find it empty. We begin in the beautiful Gloria Garden in front of the church facing the bayou over which the sun rises. As we worship, the sun rises on the bayou and reflects off the water like thousands of precious jewels and we join the birds in singing God’s praise. At the conclusion of this service those in the Friendship Class prepare a wonderful breakfast for all who would like to stay and eat.
Our traditional services begin with a moving performance of Christ the Lord is Risen Today played on our pipe organ. Filled with liturgy & worship led by our Chancel Choir & Orchestra, these services also include performances by our Children’s Choir & Bells and Westminster Bells.
For those who like a more contemporary style of worship, our 9am service is just for you. Sound Faith keeps the rhythm upbeat as they sing and lead the worship of God’s risen Son. With visuals and drama this exciting service concludes with a special message of faith.
Pentecost is a day rather than a season, but an important one non-the-less. Pentecost occurs on the fiftieth day after Passover. We celebrate Pentecost as we remember the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles as Jesus ascended to Heaven. The Spirit fell upon them like tongues of fire. This enables the Apostles to speak in different languages in order to spread the Gospel.
The color for Pentecost is red.
Following Pentecost we again have a period of Common time. This second period of Common Time we refer to as Kingdomtide. Sunday’s falling during this time will be referred to for example as: “The four Sunday after Pentecost in Kingdomtide”, The Color for Kingdomtide is green, however, red is alternated. The color of the paraments can now also change to white on Communion Sunday as well.