Kids bring Easter to life at historic church
From the mouth of babes, congregants at Bethania A.M.E. Zion Church witnessed the true meaning of Easter.
The youngsters in the church’s Sunday School program headlined a special holiday production Sunday. Though the small, intimate sanctuary has no stage, allowing only the space between its pews and the pulpit for the performance, it didn’t deter the children from staging a grand show.
The entire story of the crucifixion and resurrection was performed, with children playing the roles of Jesus, Roman soldiers and other Biblical characters.
The story was also interpreted through liturgical dance by the girls of the Little Angels of Zion. The young dancers also performed with women of the Anointed Daughters of Zion.
The performances drew spirited applause from the dozens of congregants, and Bethania’s pastor, Rev. Louis Hunter Jr., freely admitted to his congregation that the program had brought him to tears.
“I realize the significance of this day,” said Hunter. “Thank God for our children for helping us to remember this story. A lot of us know the story, but are we living the story?”
In the skit, Dakyah Hughes, 9, is schooled about the true meaning of Easter after she accepts a job playing the Easter Bunny. In real-life, Hughes said she has always known that the holiday is not about egg hunts and chocolate bunnies.
“Easter means a good thing to me: that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day,” she said. David Killian, 9, who played a soldier, said he loves Easter. “It’s my favorite holiday,” he said. “It’s all about Jesus.”
Brenda Killian, David’s mother and the church’s Sunday School superintendent, said the kids worked very hard during their six rehearsals in order to expertly convey the meaning of Easter.
“Christmas is a good holiday too, but this is the day He died for all of us,” Killian said. “There’s nothing you can’t do that you can’t ask for forgiveness.”
Bethania began its Easter celebration a week earlier with its immensely popular Palm Sunday Vesper Service, which featured an Easter cantata performed by the church’s Senior Choir. Last Friday, Hunter was one of many pastors who took part in Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church’s “Seven Last Words” service. Also that day, local A.M.E. Zion churches held an easter egg hunt at Bethlehem A.M.E. Zion Church. Events on Easter Sunday began at 6 a.m. with a joint sunrise service at Bethania with guests from Steward’s Chapel, Center Grove and Benbow Chapel A.M.E. Zion churches. A breakfast cooked by the men of the church followed. The children’s program was held at 9 a.m., followed by a special early worship service at 10 a.m.
It was a rainy, damp morning, but it didn’t stop the faithful from filling the pews to hear Hunter’s Easter message, “A Cross with Benefits.”
“Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas are the biggest time in the African American church,” said Hunter. “A lot of people come home. They come home to visit their families and to be a part of the home church.”
Bethania is a little church with a lot of history. It officially started in 1875, but its roots go back to a black Moravian congregation that was founded in 1846. The actual church building was constructed in 1893 and rebuilt in 1926 after it was damaged in a storm. The old church still forms part of the current building, which added its current sanctuary in 1971. Beside the church is a historic African American graveyard that dates back to 1875. The church is in Bethania, which has a long history of its own as the first planned Moravian settlement in North Carolina.
Bethania A.M.E. Zion Church is located at 2120 Bethania-Rural Road and regularly holds its worship service at 11 a.m.