Washington church features ‘living’ Palm Sunday event with animals

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Church of the Covenant in Washington celebrated Palm Sunday in grand fashion. In order to honor Jesus of Nazareth’s triumphant arrival in the city of Jerusalem, church organizers held a parade – complete with real livestock.


“Of course the kids love it,” said Stuart Broberg, pastor of the Presbyterian church on Beau Street. “It is a living way in which to illustrate what happened on the first Palm Sunday.”


Following a special 9 a.m. service in the chapel, palm fronds were handed out and congregants marched along a circuitous route around the church. Parade participants followed behind a well-mannered donkey named Gladys and two small, adorably fluffy lambs. The scene was meant to recreate the moment when Jesus, seated atop a common donkey, entered the city to the joy of residents waving palm fronds exactly one week before his resurrection.


Yesterday’s parade held special significance for many of the church’s youth.


“As the story goes, when Jesus went into Jerusalem it was the children waving palms,” said Janet Niven, director of children’s ministry at Church of the Covenant. “He was to be the King of the Jews, he was going to be the messiah. The significance of the donkey is that it showed how humble he and his disciples were.”


Church officials said they believe the parade helped hammer home the importance of Palm Sunday to the congregation.


“It’s experiential, tangible – not just a bunch of words,” Broberg said.


The palm parade was the latest in a number of events held by the church leading up to Easter Sunday. The church also will have special services to celebrate Maundy Thursday, the story of the last supper in which Jesus tells the disciples one of them will betray him, as well as events for Good Friday.


Paul Phillips, 19, of Washington, has attended Church of the Covenant since he was a child. For him, the event was a great way to teach a valuable lesson to the young members of the congregation.


“I think the kids really enjoy the animals,” Phillips said. “They get to see donkeys and lambs, but also learn the story of Jesus coming to Nazareth.”


Laura Smith, 19, of Washington, also grew up in the church. She said the parade helped bring together the many generations that attend services there.


“It’s nice for the older people to see young people being active in the church,” Smith said. “I think it makes them feel nice. My grandma can’t walk all the way around the church for the parade, but she likes to come and watch the children.”


Meghan Artuso, 9, of Washington, was one of the children participating in Palm Sunday festivities.


“Jesus came to Jerusalem and everyone was excited and ran around,” Artuso said. “But the donkey was my favorite. I don’t know why, I just like donkeys for some reason.”


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