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Gazette Premium Content Senior pastors play big role in city's Good Friday tradition

STEPHANIE EARLS Updated: March 28, 2013 at 12:00 am

As they have every Holy Week for the past 100 years, senior pastors from the city’s downtown churches will gather at First Presbyterian Church on Good Friday to participate in an ecumenical service with readings and reflections on the seven last words, the final statements biblically attributed to Jesus as he died on the cross.

When the tradition began in 1913, Woodrow Wilson was president. The city had around 30,000 residents. There were few telephones and fewer cars.

Then, as now, though, the Springs was strong in faith.

“In Colorado Springs, there are lots and lots of churches. Any chance we get to say, as a unified whole, that we are all aligned with the universal mission of Christ is a very positive thing,” said the Rev. Jennifer Holz, associate pastor for adult ministries at First Presbyterian.

The seven words are an important part of the Christian tradition and Easter services as they reveal the dual nature of Jesus, human and divine, and the extreme of his suffering toward redemption, Holz said.

“Each pastor interprets what Christ is saying or meaning,” she said. “Part of the preaching process is interpreting the actual word, but part is understanding the culture and community of people today and putting it in context.”

The Good Friday service lets pastors — and congregations — from the historic downtown mainline churches celebrate their commonalities together, said the Rev. Paul Peel, senior pastor of First Lutheran Church, who has been participating in the Good Friday readings for 45 years. The service also includes musical interludes and hymns by each church.

“There’s quite a long history of remembering the seven words from the cross and having meditations on them,” Peel said. “We’re all Christians, and we all have the same understanding of Christ as a savior. There’s not much that separates us at this time other than different styles of preaching.”

While the faithful may attend the service to hear their church choir and hear their pastor, many choose to stay for part or all of the three-plus hour service, said the Rev. Benjamin Broadbent, of First Congregational Church.

“In a culture and city where we can be divided by our ideological interests, this is an opportunity to be exposed to some different ways of thinking about Jesus’ death on the cross,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364

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