30 years of tradition
It is a rare occurrence when diverse churches gather to worship together and to do something meaningful. It is rarer still when diverse churches gather to worship and do something meaningful for 30 years in a row. Yet, on Good Friday in Peachtree City, that is exactly what will happen.
Thirty years ago, several pastors met regularly for breakfast and, eventually, one of them had the idea to do a joint Community Good Friday Service that would focus not on denominational distinctives but on their common salvation in Jesus Christ.
Over the years, other churches would participate in these yearly services and would include a very diverse group indeed: United Methodist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian , Lutheran , Episcopal, Anglican, Church of Christ, Catholic, Christian, Assemblies of God, Charismatic Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, and perhaps others I cannot now recall.
The services include scriptures, familiar hymns, a call to worship, special music, and at least seven ministers giving brief meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross.
Lutheran Pastor John Weber used to call it the “Peachtree City Preach-Off.” For years, Peachtree City Christian Church Pastor Bob Tyler put together the services and arranged the meeting location. When he departed the church, Dr. George Dillard, who became the pastor at PTC Christian, also inherited the task of arranging the services and has done a very commendable job for several years now.
The Kiwanis Club of Peachtree City usually ushers and the offering received at this service all goes to assist Fayette Samaritans, a cooperative ministry that serves the needy of the community. The services are open to all regardless of church membership or lack of it.
Once upon a time, the services would rotate from church to church but, as the services grew to 1,000 or more, only the largest churches could host the Good Friday services. Now, for the most part, the services are held at one of the following: Holy Trinity Catholic Church, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Peachtree City United Methodist Church, or Peachtree City Christian Church. This year the services will begin at noon on Good Friday at First Baptist Church.
All of the original pastors who made those first services come to pass are all gone now, either retired or serving churches elsewhere. It was pointed out to me at a recent meeting that I am now the “old man” of the group. I was once the “kid,” the youngest pastor, in this group but no longer. This will be my 28th service — well, 27th actually. I was scheduled one year but had a death in my family and my associate spoke in my place.
This year, the preachers are Rev. Herzen Andone, Peachtree City United Methodist Church; Father John Murphy, Holy Trinity Catholic Church; Father George Tsahakis, St. Christopher Hellenic Orthodox Church; Rev. Fritz Wiese, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church; Dr. David Miller, Peachtree City Presbyterian Church; Dr George S. Dillard III, Peachtree City Christian Church; Father Michael Fry, All Saints Anglican Church; and myself. It’s hard to get a more diverse group than that!
This year marks three decades of Good Friday tradition in the community. It is a moment when denominational labels fade away and, for an hour and a half, the Church meets together, sings together, worships together, gives together, prays together, and stands together. It is a moment when 1,000 people gather together and perceive the reality that they are all Christians. It is a moment worth celebrating.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]