Liz came downstairs just after 6 a.m. to the aroma of coffee brewing; she had programed the coffee machine the night before. She fetched the colored hard cooked eggs from the refrigerator, turned off the house alarm, and opened the sliding glass door to hide them amongst the trees and flowers in the side yard. She usually hid them in fairly obvious places, and kept track of how many the kids found. Even though Kevin was 12, he still enjoyed their traditional Easter morning egg hunt along with Sean. The two teenagers would stay in bed for another hour or so before it was time to get ready for church.
The Easter morning events at church started with an early breakfast, but the O’Connell’s family tradition was to spend the early hours of Easter morning at home. With two full-time jobs, Liz and Brian tried to spend as much time as they could with their family on the week-ends—and they had their own holiday traditions.
Liz had set the kitchen table for Easter breakfast the night before with her favorite yellow and blue quilted patchwork placemats that she commissioned from a friend using quilting cottons from her stash. She loved the fabric depicting yellow chicks and nests of eggs set on a background of old-fashioned flowers. Each placemat had a center block of chicks placed on the diagonal.
The Waterford crystal basket, a gift from Brian years before, was on the table, ready to receive the eggs the boys would find. Breakfast also included a fruit salad in her grandmother’s crystal bowl, and hot cross buns. Brian had grown up eating hot cross buns on Easter, and the O’Connells had continued that tradition with their family. The pink tulips flopping out of the cut crystal vase finished the Easter morning kitchen tableau.
Liz pulled the candies and little gifts for the Easter baskets from their hiding places, and quickly filled the baskets. The four large wood woven baskets were painted in different pastel colors. The pink one was Anna’s; the blue one, Liam’s, the white one, Kevin’s, and the yellow one was Sean’s. Each basket had a hand-carved wood bunny affixed to the top of the handle. Liz had purchased the new baskets for her four children shortly after Sean was born.
While she filled the baskets, Brian wrote a note from the Easter Bunny to the O’Connell children explaining the true meaning of Easter. His attempt to disguise his handwriting didn’t fool the older children, but Sean was still in the dark. Sean had left a large carrot on the kitchen table for the E.B. the night before, which had found its way back into the produce drawer of the refrigerator with several other carrots.
A few minutes later, after Liz gave Brian the okay to let the Sean and Kevin come downstairs, the boys raced downstairs, grabbed their Easter baskets and, momentarily ignoring the candies and small toys in their baskets, ran outside to see who could find the most eggs.
After all of the eggs had been found and placed in the crystal basket on the kitchen table, the two boys opened the gifts and cards in their baskets and began rifling through the “grass” looking for jelly beans and chocolate candies.
“You guys need to eat some breakfast before you eat candy,” cautioned Liz.
Brian poured a cup of coffee for himself and one for Liz and sat down at the kitchen table with Liz and the two boys. Sean and Kevin practically inhaled a bit of fruit, orange juice, and a hot cross bun, so that they could eat a little candy before church.
“I’m saving the black jelly beans for you, Mom,” Kevin said.
Not to be outdone, Sean chimed in, “Me too!” It was a well-known fact in the family that Liz was an aficionado of black licorice jelly beans.
“Your clothes are laid out on the sofa on the landing,” Liz said when the boys finished breakfast. “Knock on your brother’s and sister’s doors to get them up when you go upstairs. Brian and Liz rinsed off the dishes and put them in the dishwasher before climbing the stairs to get dressed.
Easter morning at Hope Chapel was a festive, happy time. The 60” round tables in the parish hall were covered with pastel tablecloths and decorated with bouquets of spring flowers in preparation for the hearty breakfast prepared by the men’s club.
A member of the choir, Pastor Emeritus Marty Wolf, led the group in singing grace, and everyone joined in after he sang the first two words: “Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These gifts and mercies grant that we may strengthened for your service be. Aaaamen.” Several in the group harmonized on the long amen.
The breakfast was followed by an Easter egg hunt for the three to ten-year-olds. The teens had been busy filling up balloons with a helium tank, and occasionally taking in a bit of the gas to hear themselves talk like Donald Duck. After the Easter egg hunt, one of the teens, dressed as the Easter Bunny, led the excited group of children holding balloons with their parents out to the Main Street sidewalk for a parade. The parade of parents and children in their Easter finery was a Hope Chapel tradition. The kids waved excitedly to folks honking their horns as they drove by the church.
The children were excused to the Parish Hall for Sunday School, and those over 10 years of age headed to the Chapel. The large white cross, constructed with channels so that it could be filled with oasis and stuffed with the white calla lilies native to Southern California, was displayed in the narthex. The ferns and roses were planted at the base of the cross completed the beautiful display.
After the congregation was seated, a processional party led by a white-robed crucifer carrying the processional cross filed into the church during the first verse of Jesus Christ Has Risen Today. The congregation rose to sing along with the booming resonance of the organ.
Pastor Bernie and the acolytes walked directly behind the crucifer, followed by the robed choir members. It was a joyous moment when the whole congregations rejoiced in the resurrection–the event upon which the whole of Christianity rests. A trumpet player belted out the tune at the front of the church.
When the last note of the jubilant hymn was played and the last alleluia sung, the parishioners settled in the pews. Bernie stood up in front of the congregation in her white robe and white stole, and in a vigorous voice, declared, “He has risen!”
The congregation responded: “He has risen indeed!”
Bernie, followed up, building to a crescendo: “He has risen!”
The congregation thundered: “He has risen indeed!”
Crystal slipped into the church and sat down in the last pew just in time to hear the thunderous “He has risen indeed” response. She had been going to the seeker’s class off and on since her first meeting with Pastor Bernie, but hadn’t yet been to a church service. She figured that if Christianity was all about Easter, she should come and see for herself.
She looked around and recognized the O’Connells in their pastel Easter clothes on the left side of the church. There appeared to be two other teens sitting next to them and whispering to the O’Connell teenagers.
From what she could see from her seat, Liz was outfitted in a pale pink pantsuit. A few pews away from the O’Connell, she recognized her psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Rogers, who had turned momentarily to her right. She was decked out in a crème ensemble—a Chanel style boucle jacket with gold trim and a matching skirt, a crème silk blouse, and a triple strand of pearls. She was the picture of elegance. As Crystal discretely looked around, she realized that everyone was dressed to the nines—especially the women.
Gee, Crystal hadn’t thought about getting dressed up. They really didn’t do that at the Center. Most everyone wore jeans to their services. She felt terribly self-conscious in her chinos, white cotton shirt, and navy merino wool sweater thrown casually over her shoulders. Her hair was in a ponytail. She looked down at her feet. She was wearing her week-end loafers.
She clutched the bulletin and studied the unfamiliar words. Looking around, she saw that some of the people were holding a book in their hands. But there were two large screens in the front of the church. It looked like it was displaying the words that the people were speaking or singing. She mumbled her way through the words and the music.
She realized that it had been a mistake to come. What had she been thinking? These people were probably all baptized for gosh sakes!