Community Conversations

In a time of church burnings, Easter is a symbol of hope and starting over

The sun rises behind alter servers during Holy Rosary St. Richard Catholic Church’s Easter Sunrise service at the Charles Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay in 2018.
The sun rises behind alter servers during Holy Rosary St. Richard Catholic Church’s Easter Sunrise service at the Charles Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay in 2018. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Happy Resurrection Day! And, happy Passover!

This year, the two holidays came about the same time, and we are blessed that they did. This is a wonderful season for people of different religious faiths to come together in peace. This is even more relevant to me as I ponder the latest church fires in this country and the burning of the majestic 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in France. The forces of evil are ever present in our lives.

But thank God for this season. There is something symbolic about it and the burning of the churches around Easter time. Easter is a symbol of hope. It speaks of faith and new beginnings; it is a season of start-overs.

So, the cathedral in France will be restored. The black churches that were burned to the ground will rise up out of the ashes and again be beacons of light and goodness to the world.

Easter tells me that God is a God of another chance, that we can shake off the hate and disagreements that separate us and start to come together again.

When I was a child, Easter was my favorite holiday (actually, it still is). On Easter morning, I was told, the sun came up dancing, because it was so happy that Jesus had called out victory over death and the grave. As I sat at one of the many Easter sunrise services, my child’s mind told me it was so: The sun really did rise dancing. And I imagined seeing it bouncing happily up over the horizon.

I am no longer a child, but thankfully I am childlike enough to have faith. I believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection. I believe that He showed Himself to a few believers before He left to be with His Father in Heaven. And I believe that He is coming again.

It is so important to have this faith. Especially today, when there is so much to distract believers, so much hate and strife. So much so that the prayers of believers seem to be getting longer because there is so much more to pray for these days. I thought about this when I first learned of the black church burnings in this country.

The black church is the soul of the black community. It is a place of refuge, a place where we could always go and, for the most part, feel safe. Indeed, some of my happiest moments have been in church.

Church is more than a place of worship; it is a place of fellowship. Church was so special when I was growing up that we children even had special “church” clothes to wear to the house of God.

Church was where you invited your friends to. It was where you grew up singing in the children’s choir, and when you were older, you joined Choir #1. It was where Rev. Brown and Mother Hewey took you to a rock pit early on a Sunday morning to baptize you. And when you came up out of the water, Mother Hewey was there singing:

“...Take me to the water… Take me to the water… take me to the water… to be baptized…” And then she wrapped you in a warm blanket.

Church was Holy Communion on the first Sunday (or fifth Sunday), when all the deaconesses and missionaries adorned themselves in white to serve the communion table. And where the cleansing sounds of the old hymn “Near the Cross” would stir your very soul.

If you entered church feeling sad, you could exit feeling happy. The doors were always open.

But times — they are a-changin’. And many churches now have security guards to monitor the grounds of their sanctuaries, while parishioners sing praises to God on the inside. Kind of like an oxymoron. But today is Easter. Resurrection Day. It is a day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. And while I will pray for our nation and its issues, today I won’t allow my mind to dwell on unpleasantness. No, today, I will think as I did when I was a child. Today, I will simply imagine the sun rising up dancing. And I will dance, too (my arthritic knee permitting), with praises and thanksgiving in my heart.

Hallelujah!

Easter pageant

Bishop Walter H. Richardson and the congregation at the Church of God Tabernacle (True Holiness) in Liberty City invite you to the annual Easter pageant at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 21. The pageant is presented by the Bible class students, who will tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection through dramatic skits and music.

The church is at 1351 NW 67th St. There is no admission charge.

Resurrection Day

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church will celebrate Resurrection Day with an Easter Liturgy at 11 a.m. in English and at 1 p.m. in Spanish. Everyone is welcome. The church is at 2055 Coral Way.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

The communitywide commemoration of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — will be at 6:30 p.m. on April 28 at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. The annual event, conceived to memorialize the six million Jews who perished during World War II, is a way to express solidarity with survivors and perpetuate the lessons of the Holocaust.

The event is being presented in cooperation with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council; the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami; the Florida Department of Education; the city of Miami Beach; the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs; and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Those attending will hear testimony from Holocaust survivor David Mermelstein, 89, who was born in Kivjazd, Czechoslovakia. His grandparents, parents, and siblings were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1944, where they perished. David managed to survive the rigors of work details and a death march before Auschwitz was liberated by the Allied military forces in 1945. In addition, the program will include recitations from the grandchildren of survivors; a candle-lighting ceremony; musical presentations and prayers.

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David Mermelstein, a Holocaust survivor, will speak at the commemoration of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — at 6:30 p.m. April 28 at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. Roberto Koltun El Nuevo Herald

In case of rain, the event will relocate to Temple Beth Sholom, 4144 Chase Ave. in Miami Beach. Call 305-538-1663 for more information or email, info@HolocaustMemorialMiamiBeach.org

Holocaust film screening

A Holocaust Memorial film screening will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at South Miami Senior High School. The “Names, Not Numbers” documentary is one hour long and was created by students in the school’s Cobra TV program. It highlights four Holocaust survivors who tell their incredible stories.

Women and financial health

“Women, Money, and Meditation,” a women’s empowerment seminar, will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on April 27 at the Open Awareness Buddhist Center, 60 NW 86th St. in El Portal. Lama Karma Chotso and Susan Howell, the owner of Financial Responsibility — Financial Freedom, will serve as teachers.

The women-only seminar is geared to help take the stress, worry, and fear out of money matters and bring in peace, calm, and freedom. Those attending will learn about financial responsibility, how to use meditation to improve the daily relationship with money, and how to be in control of your money instead of it controlling you.

Tea and water will be provided, along with small notebooks and pens. The cost is $90 per person for Buddhist Center members and $100 for nonmembers. Class size is limited to 25. Call 305-751-7402 or email, miamibuddhism@gmail.com to register and for more information.

‘100 Most Jewish Foods’

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU will present a special reception featuring author Alan Newhouse at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Gallery @ The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr. in Miami Beach. The event is in celebration of Tablet Magazine’s new book “100 Most Jewish Foods.” Newhouse will take those attending on a journey covering 5,000 years of Jewish culinary history.

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“The 100 Most Jewish Foods” by Alana Newhouse. Newhouse is the founder and editor in chief of Tablet, the innovative and occasionally irreverent online magazine about Jewish culture. SONNY FIGUEROA NYT

The presentation is in partnership with the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot. Call 305-531-6100 for more information.

Girl Scouts luncheon

The Brown Bag Lunch series at the Black Archives will feature the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida (IXORA) Collection, 1966-2012, from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the archives, which are housed at the historic Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave. in Overtown.

The collection covers the activities, meetings, projects, members and events of the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida. The majority of the collection covers the IXORA Girl Scouts from 1966-2012, and includes certificates, convention materials, correspondence, magazines, newspapers, photographs and bulletin boards. If you go, bring your own lunch.

Other collections will include the Dorsey High School Alumni Association Collection, 1946-2011, on May 8, and the Haitian Collection, 1979-1980 on May 29.

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