Palm Sunday brings gathering on the Green

Christians mark the start of Holy Week

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  • Father Robert Griner starts the Palm Sunday service on the Green in Newton. His son serves as an accolyte Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Attendees raised their palms in commemoration of Jesus entering Jerusalem

  • The congregation heads back to the church for Mass

By Laurie Gordon

– On Sunday, right in the center of town, at 9:50 am, a group of people — some in white and red robes, some in overcoats, some with children all dressed up and one wearing a chasuble and a peaked hat — came together. These people were holding palm fronds, and when commanded, lifted them into the air. The man in the hat was standing on a park bench and talking about a colt.

Drivers-by may well have been thinking: “What are those crazy people doing?” or “Oh no! It's Palm Sunday and I forgot to go to church!”

Christ Episcopal Church's congregation has a Palm Sunday tradition of gathering on the Newton Green before the 10 am service and this year was little different. Palm fronds were handed out, prayers were said. The Gospel on that day speaks of how Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, and after the final “Amen” on the Green, the group proceeded up to the church. They even got a police escort, with Newton's Finest stopping cars so the worshippers could cross the street.

Known for his profound and impactful sermons, Father Robert Griner, the church's rector, arrived at the Green wearing a traditional biretta, a square cap with peaks surmounted by a tuft. He brings it out for Palm Sunday and the annual Blessing of the Animals. As serious as the prolific priest can be with his services and preaching, he also throws in some uncanny wit to the delight of his parishioners.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and initiates Holy Week, the last week of Lent. In the past, worship services included a procession of parishioners carrying palms to represent the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into the town.

Maybe because the weather can be frigid – it was a whopping 32 on the Green on Sunday with a blustery wind--or maybe because the tradition has simply faded at many houses of worship, it's rare to see a Palm Sunday procession.

As Father Robert began the service on the Green and cars slowed, as drivers' curiosity got the better of them, the sun peeked out for about a minute. Holy Week is the most sacred time in Christian religions, including commemoration of the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion on Good Friday, and leading up to the Resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday.

Perhaps that glimmer of sunshine reminded people that Easter is a week away, and with it will come happiness, celebration, egg hunts... and hopefully warmer weather.

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