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Hastings churches hold ecumenical service Friday at Seton Church

This week, they share a common thread among their religious beliefs. Although the various churches in Hastings primarily worship and reach out to the community independently they will come together to worship and praise their God this Friday, Good Friday.

The annual ecumenical Good Friday service, hosted by the Hastings Ministerial Association, is at 4:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 2035 W. 15th St. The service is open to the community.

"This is an opportunity for all of the churches to be part of the community," said the Rev. John Mitchem, associate pastor of the United Methodist Church.

The service will be one related to the events of the day, Mitchem said - Jesus Christ's death and burial. It will be told by about 20 of Hastings pastors, musicians of Hastings churches, Black Dirt Theater (a short skit) and congregation participation in both readings and music.

While many of the pastors will be visible during the service, several will be behind the scenes. The Rev. Josh Bernau, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, will be a member of the prayer team sitting in the prayer chapel at Seton Church. There, he will be praying for community members attending the service and the other pastors present.

For April Davis Campbell, First Presbyterian Church pastor, the Hastings Ministerial Association is unique and different from another organization she was part of before coming to Hastings several years ago.

"Yes, it is unique -- this is a diverse group," she said. "It is really cool, very open and welcoming. The pastors are committed to the greater good of Hastings. The relationship is one of furthering God's grace in Hastings. They all care about Hastings."

The Good Friday service usually draws people from just about every denomination in Hastings, pastors and parishioners.

"I very much look forward every year, along with so many others, to the Good Friday ecumenical service, since it is one of several opportunities where we can get together with other churches and denominations," said the Rev. David Wrightsman, associate pastor of St. Philip's Lutheran Church. "Also, the clergy who participate, about 15-20 of us each year, seem to genuinely enjoy being together not only in our monthly meetings as a ministerium but look forward to sharing in leading worship together."

The Rev. Paris Pasch, senior pastor of Christ's Family Church, remembers when that was not necessarily so.

"Thirty years ago, when I first became a pastor in Hastings, the churches in Hastings operated primarily independent of one another and this was understood in our community," he said. "Even though we had Christ in common we seldom crossed paths with other traditions. "The purpose of the Good Friday service is to swim upstream against this historical reality. Today we value the contribution that each church makes in our community. This service is a small gesture of that mutual respect and value we've come to have for one another.

"The choice of the particular day is that the church of Jesus Christ has this common thread amongst all denominations and traditions. The telling of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is why we exist."

For the Rev. James Perkl, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, there are a number of memories from the service.

"One of the greatest memories that I have had of the Good Friday Ecumenical Service over the years is the experience of carrying the cross of Jesus with all the clergy, at the beginning of the service," he said. "As the cross is being carried by each of us, I am always struck by the reverent silence of the congregation as the cross passes by each one in attendance.

"We all experience suffering, but it is made so much lighterwhen shared, especially with Jesus at the heart of everything, As well, much suffering is relieved through our collection, which serves Hastings Family Service and has in the past served Hastings TLC: Pregnancy Resource Center."

The service is a united one, too.

"To me, this service has been a uniting point for us in the Christian tradition," said Bernau. "The pinnacle of our story is Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection; that's what unites us. That's what makes us Christians, whether we're Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalian, Presbyterians, or connected with a non-denominational church.

"There is a strong Christian presence here in Hastings, and for many people, the Good Friday service is an expression our oneness as the Church (with a capital C). We are all from different churches, but in the Apostles Creed we speak of being members of 'one holy Christian and apostolic church.' And that church is centered around our belief in Jesus as God's Son who lived the perfect life that we were unable to, and died the painful, agonizing death that we deserved. This is what Good Friday is all about."

Pasch has observed the reaction of the people who come to worship together.

"Our experience is that many of the people who attend are elated with the opportunity to stand together in the same room for a common purpose of glorifying our gracious God and acknowledging our desperate need for Him," said Pasch. "Many who attend come year after year to witness this amazing expression."

Each year, the Ministerial Association designates a particular agency or organization for its offering. As in the past several years, Hastings Family Service will be the recipient.

"We choose a Hastings entity that serves our community well like Hastings Family Service to direct the generous offering toward, which is appreciated by all who attend," said Pasch. "It is also our hope that our community would get the message that we are working together in an effort to share our faith with a world that is searching for hope and peace," he said. "We believe this is one example of where we do this well."