FOUR-LEGGED GUEST: Wesley Methodist to include live donkey in its Palm Sunday service

Published 11:14 am Friday, March 22, 2024

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Wesley Methodist Church will have a special four-legged guest at its first Palm Sunday service as a new congregation. A miniature donkey named Jerusalem will lead the procession on Sunday morning at the church’s 10:30 a.m. worship service.

The church is inviting attendees to a “Greet and Graze” event prior to the Palm Sunday service 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. to meet the donkey and take photographs.

Wesley Methodist Church was formed in August 2023 as a new expression of orthodox, evangelical Wesleyan Methodism church. The congregation currently meets in the gym of Western Heights Baptist Church at 2382 West Point Road in LaGrange.

“We have a growing children’s ministry,” said Dr. John Beyers, Senior Minister. “Having a live donkey participate in our worship service brings scripture to life for our children — and their parents and grandparents.”

Donkeys play key roles in biblical stories of all four Easter season Gospels about Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem days before he was crucified, Beyers said.

“Jesus rode on the back of a donkey to signify he was coming in peace. Those gathered waved palm fronds and shouted, ‘Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,’” Beyers said.

Beyers added that children will be directed to study the markings on the donkey’s back.

“I love the legend that says that the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday loved him so much that the little donkey followed Jesus to Calvary,” Beyers noted. “Filled with grief at the suffering of the Lord on the cross, the donkey turned to leave but could not. It was in that moment that the shadow of the cross fell upon the donkey’s back. Ever since then, donkeys have borne the mark of the cross as a reminder to us all what Jesus did for us on that day — he died that we might be reconciled with God and live eternally with him in heaven.”

In addition to waving palm branches on Sunday morning, each attendee will receive a palm cross to wear.

“More than 650 crosses were lovingly made by the Wesley Methodist Church Altar Guild,” Beyers said. “Whether one of our members or guests receive in the mail or at the service, I hope they will keep it as a reminder of how much God loves them.”

The Palm Sunday service is the first of four services that Wesley Methodist will hold during Holy Week.

On Thursday, March 28 at 6 pm, the church will observe Maundy Thursday through worship and Holy Communion.

“Maundy Thursday was the night that Jesus and the disciples gathered together in the Upper Room for their last meal together. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and instituted what is now observed as the Sacrament of Holy Communion,” Beyers said.

On Friday, March 29 at 6 p.m., the Chancel Choir will present The Way of the Cross, a sequence of biblical readings and music describing Jesus’ journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to the cross. An experience like Nine Lessons and Carols in the preparatory season of Advent, as the peak of the Lenten season nears before the joy of Easter Sunday, scripture and music combine to create a deeply reflective narrative on the Passion of the Lord. The Chancel Choir, soloists, and pianist Robin Lewis are joined by oboist, Dr. Alexandra Prior, in traditional and contemporary selections with music by Bach, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Lloyd-Webber and Sarah MacDonald, with several exciting new arrangements and compositions by Dr. Richard Prior, Wesley Methodist’s minister of music and conductor of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

The church will hold its Easter worship service on Sunday, March 31 at 10:30 a.m. Attendees are asked to bring flowers to adorn the Easter Cross before the service. Guests are invited for fellowship and refreshments at 10 am.

“I invite all to experience this Holy Week with Wesley Methodist Church,” Beyers said. “Join us as we journey through Holy Week. We will pray. We will worship. We will be nourished. We will marvel at what God has done for us. And we will seek God’s grace that we may follow him more closely each day.”