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Wesley United Methodist Church in Connellsville to continue Maundy Thursday tradition

| Monday, March 25, 2013, 7:39 a.m.
Wesley United Methodist Church, 417 S. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville, will celebrate Maundy Thursday at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Susanna Wesley Room. This service will be a re-enactment of “The Last Supper,” with disciples in costume, symbolic foods and communion. From left are Rod Haines and Ken Metzger as they portray two of the disciples. Please use the Sunday School entrance on Pittsburgh Street. Easter Sunday celebration will be held at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

A Passover Remembrance, which has been held at Wesley United Methodist Church in Connellsville on Maundy Thursday for more than 25 years, will take place again at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Nancy Duncan, church member and coordinator, begins planning the service at least one month in advance, contacting each of the men who portray the Apostles. “Fortunately, they are always willing to participate and they each do a fantastic job. They memorize their verses, which makes it so realistic,” she said. “This year our pastor, the Rev. Dave Ealy will play Thaddeus, who is not available from last year's group.”

Two Apostles are played by parishioners from Ealy's Franklin Memorial United Methodist Church in Dunbar. The others are all from Connellsville's Wesley United Methodist Church.

The Apostles wear costumes and sit by candlelight. Symbolic foods are used.

Duncan said the focus is on Jesus' teaching as the 12 Disciples gathered with Him around the table in the Upper Room, to remind us of our own place at the table where Jesus is the host and teacher. The various foods are eaten with symbolic purpose and meaning; they are not meant to be enjoyed for their taste, but to be eaten as an act of devotion and faith.

The eating of the greens symbolizes new growth; bitter herbs, like parsley, remind of bitterness of life and bondage of sin; an olive is next, the fruit of the tree of life, symbolic of Israel's past and future beauty and the source of many life-giving products, she continued. Next, the unleavened bread is the symbol of the bread of affliction which the Israelites ate in the land of Egypt. It was the bread of haste which did not have the chance to rise on the day of leaving Egypt. A boiled egg follows, which is the symbol of God's creation, the world and everything created by God.

The last food is a grape, which is the fruit of the vine that reminds us of the vine which Jesus declared himself to be with his followers, the branches which are to bear fruit.

Those in attendance will be seated at tables and partake of the foods as the disciples do after each one speaks. Andrew and Phillip are followed by the eating of the greens, Duncan said. James the Lesser and Judas are followed by the bitter herbs. Following Peter, the olive is eaten, then Thomas and Simon the zealot are followed by the unleavened bread. James speaks, followed by the eating of egg. Thaddeus and Matthew are followed by the grape, and Nathaniel and John speak last.

The congregation then receives communion.

“The choir is there with beautiful music directed by Kay Springer who is also our church organist. The program takes a lot of practice and preparation by many people. The service is moving and meaningful, a wonderful part of our Easter celebration,” Duncan said.

Ealy encourages everyone in the community to attend this solemn presentation.

“It is an inspirational experience for all ages. Each disciple has a monologue of what he is feeling and thinking that night and Jesus is present in spirit.”

The program will be held in the Susanna Wesley Room, which can be reached by entering the lower church door on South Pittsburgh Street.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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