Pastor says Easter is biggest celebration in church year
The Rev. Stephanie Anthony, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, calls Easter the biggest celebration in the Christian church year.
"Christmas gets all the 'press,' but we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas if it were not for the resurrection at Easter," Anthony said. "If not for the resurrection, Jesus would have been nothing more than a great teacher."
Anthony actually has a biology background, but has no trouble believing that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later.
"When I was studying biology, there were times people questioned my beliefs and I had my own doubts," Anthony said. "There was a time I talked 'life and death' in very technical terms.
"But, when you look at the evidence of the witnesses, the Bible, the faith of people involved and test of time -- the resurrection fits into the miracle category."
She now has no doubt that the resurrection is the real thing and is now more concerned about what to do with the knowledge.
"I'm not as concerned about the black and white of the resurrection as I am the journey of Christ, the faith and the growth," Anthony said.
Regarding the cultural influences of Easter, Anthony is okay with families using candy, eggs and Easter bunnies.
"I'm not one to shun culture, but it doesn't have to be the focus -- one family I know uses the cultural symbols on Saturday, then focuses on the religious side of Easter on Sunday."
She said the cultural tools like bunnies and eggs can also be used to help teach a religious lesson.
Even Christian faiths have different ways to observe Biblical events, but all Christians are pretty much on the same page when it comes to Easter.
"I think all Christians focus on the joy and hope of Easter," Anthony said. "And I think Christian faiths deal with the challenge of making the resurrection more than a one-day celebration."
Anthony said she recently heard a secular song that reminds her of Easter.
"The song is 'Just Give Me a Reason' by Pink," she said. "It's a song about a broken love relationship and the singer is looking for one sign that can fix the broken relationship.
"Jesus and the resurrection is our one sign that life's struggles will all be fixed. He is the sign that we are bent, but not broken -- we are not beyond love and redemption."
On Easter Sunday, Anthony said she plans to preach from the Gospel of Mark.
"It is short and sweet," Anthony said. "And it just stops. The women come to the empty tomb and just run away -- it's such a real ending. What would we have done? Mark's account is such a real ending.
"Sometimes the church can sound arrogant. If we experienced finding the empty tomb, what would our reaction be -- no doubt it would be very confusing. Of course, Luke points out that at first nobody believed the women when they came back with the story of the empty tomb."
Anthony came to First Presbyterian Church in Hudson five years ago. The church currently has about 220 confirmed members. Before that, she was an associate pastor in Lincoln, Neb. She grew up on the east coast of Florida and graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Vir., with a B.S. in biology and a second major in religion. She continued on to Columbia Theological Seminary near Atlanta, receiving her Master of Divinity in May 2002.
She and her husband Phil have three children, Karoline, 7, William, 5, and Margret, 2.
On Easter Sunday, First Presbyterian Church is offering a breakfast at 8:15 a.m., followed by the church service at 9:30 a.m. Other Holy Week activities include a Maundy Thursday service with communion at 7 p.m. First Presbyterian Church and First Baptist are providing a joint Good Friday service at 7 p.m. Friday at First Baptist, 309 Vine St.