I'm most certainly a person who loves tradition. I hang our Christmas stockings in the same place each year, put Valentine's cards at my husband's and children's place at the breakfast table and eat at the same restaurants every time my family goes to the beach.
And during Holy Week, I make every effort to attend the Thursday night (or Maundy Thursday) pre-Easter service at my church.
This tradition, for me, goes back to April 19, 1984. My husband and I had been dating for less than a week when I invited him to go to Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist Church with me and my parents. It was the first time we went to church together, and we both enjoyed the auxiliary's traditional covered dish dinner before an informal service and communion in the fellowship hall.
Over the years, Reggie and I made a point to go back to that service every year, to recall our early courting days and to participate in the Holy Week service.
Several of these Thursday services stick out in my mind.
When our daughter, Anna, was just 6 weeks old, she and brother accompanied us to the service. Anna was a colicky baby, and we had hesitated to take her because she cried so much — hours and hours at the time every evening and sometimes all day and all night long. But we went anyway. Sure enough, Anna started crying during the dinner part of the evening. A veteran mom in attendance took Anna from my arms and told me eat my dinner, she would get her quiet. I laughed silently at her folly; there was no way she would get that baby to stop crying. Anna was passed from mom to mom and dad to dad. They each used their tried-and-true methods of hushing a colicky baby, bouncing her, placing her tummy-down on a knee, singing to her, holding a passy in her mouth, cuddling her. You name it, they tried it. Nothing worked, of course, and they handed her back to me once I had finished my meal. She didn't stop crying for about another month. Incidentally, the photo her dad took of me holding her a few days later, wearing her pretty Easter dress, shows her bright red face, fresh from crying.
Some years later, at this same pre-Easter service, son Robert got his first taste of the bread and grape juice of communion. As I said, the service is informal. And before the communion trays were passed around, our pastor, Ray Wells, explained to the children in attendance what communion was all about. They listened to him with wide eyes that grew wider still when he invited them to participate with the adults this time. Robert remembered that every year afterwards.
And just a few years ago, as the group gathered in a circle after the meal, Ray asked the congregation if any of us would like to share what the Easter season and the pre-Easter service meant to them. I told how Reggie and I had started our relationship on the days that led up to Easter back in 1984 and how much it mean to both of us to attend the service every year.
Last night, after the service ended, several people came up to me and told me they remembered that Thursday night was an anniversary of sorts for Reggie and me. Earlier in the week, Ray had mentioned it to me as well. It really touched me that my dear church family had remember this special moment in our lives.