Easter Vigil Is Both Ancient and New Observance for Campbell UMCs

May 18, 2011

By Dave Foyle
Campbell UMC

Campbell United Methodist Church, jointly with New Creation UMC, held its second Easter Vigil service this year. The Easter Vigil service, held the Saturday evening before Easter, is becoming increasingly popular among United Methodist churches, likely because an evening service "fits" into the modern lifestyle, and is much more "sleep friendly" than sunrise services for both adults and kids.
The Easter Vigil service is considered to be the first of the Easter celebration services (following the Jewish tradition that a day lasts from evening to evening). It is an ancient service, referenced in writing as early as the 3rd century. Some scholars believe that parts of it likely date to the very first anniversary of Jesus' death, when the Disciples recalled the events of the resurrection as they lit the evening's candles and shared Communion as Jesus had directed a year earlier.
This year's Easter Vigil began at sunset with about 80 adults and youth gathered around a bonfire (and followed the typical UMC service outline; see The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 338-376). The Paschal (from the Hebrew word for "Passover") candle, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world, was lit and carried at the front of a candlelight procession around the block as everybody sang "This Little Light of Mine." What a sight for the neighborhood: People driving on busy Winchester Boulevard watching a candlelight procession passing in front of the KFC, and neighborhood kids coming out to see who was singing in front of their apartment buildings!
The procession ended back at the Fellowship Hall where the Creation story was told in dance by Delia Shepherd, followed by various groups (New Creation adults and youth, Campbell youth, African Fellowship, the Disciple class, and others) performing Old Testament stories in a lighthearted way: How many of us knew that Moses at the Red Sea was told with play-by-play Twitter "tweets," or that the story of Noah involved Pokemon? – for example. The climactic final story was a live "60 Minutes" report by "Mikus Wallacus," interviewing the women eyewitnesses at the empty tomb.
After sharing these stories, the crowd processed to the chapel where new members were welcomed into the congregation. Moving into the Sanctuary, each attendee was given a flower to add to the chancel flowers, so that the Easter morning flower display was partially built by the Easter Vigil attendees.
The Easter Vigil service ended with the Communion sacrament, so that all might remember Jesus and the sacrifice that he made for us so many years ago.
The final procession of the evening was led by the youth, who enthusiastically led the way to the pizzas, cookies, and sodas awaiting us for a time of fellowship! The Easter Vigil service was truly a new (ancient?) way for attendees of all ages to celebrate and become reacquainted with the Easter story in an exciting, accessible, and meaningful way.