While thousands flocked to United Methodists Churches in Rio Texas for the remembrance of Holy Week and celebration of Easter, many were able to worship in new ways and in new places.
Maundy Thursday was remembered in a unique way by students of Texas State United Campus Ministry students in San Marcos. In remembrance of the Last Supper and Jesus’ foot washing, students prepared and served a meal at the San Marcos Southside homeless shelter (a UMW National Mission Institution), provided free socks, played music, and built relationships through conversation.
Bee Creek UMC, Spicewood took their Maundy Thursday service outside for Communion by the Lake, where 53 dropped in for communion and prayer stations. The service was held at Pace Bend Park.
"One guy came before mountain-biking," said Bee Creek UMC Pastor Rev. Laura Heikes. "Another family just saw the event on Facebook and stopped by."
The Saturday before Easter was cause for celebration too. St. Mark UMC and Servant Church joined together in Austin for a new event called “Holy Smokes.” Members from the churches and wider community came together at a local barbecue restaurant to enjoy food and a bonfire. They also celebrated the first light of Easter with an inspiring and informal communion service.
The attendance at the event surpassed expectations. "With over 130 members from the two churches in attendance, this new experience blew our expectations out of the water," said Servant Church Senior Pastor Kelly Schoenfelt.
Bee Creek UMC celebrated at the Crystal Creek Distillery for their "No Walls" worship service and crawfish boil. Over 200 people attended, many of those were new faces.
“Looking around, I’d say only about half were from our church,” said Heikes. “Lots of people brought friends, dogs, and neighbors.”
While many Rio Texas churches saw record attendance inside their sanctuaries, many also celebrated the risen Christ in less traditional spaces.
Every Easter Sunday, Austin New Church moves their worship service out of the building and under the I-35 bridge in downtown Austin.
“We break from the traditional mold to answer our call to ‘serve the poor and be about the kingdom.’ No fancy dresses or new suits. No Easter bonnets. We are there to serve the often marginalized homeless community of Austin.”
Over 400 members and friends of ANC joined members of the Austin homeless community around tables for a sit-down meal (provided courtesy of Hat Creek Burgers), conversation, and games.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, the church collected new shoes. This year over 400 pairs of shoes were distributed as well as 200 backpacks with food items and a countless number of personal hygiene products. Austin New Church has celebrated Easter this way for the past ten years.
Students led Easter Worship on campus at Texas State featuring songs, prayer, scripture, and faithful friendship. Evening worship brought the message of new life in Christ into the middle of life on campus. The evening worship also featured a college egg hunt right outside the university library to invite students (including passers-by) to experience the gift of Easter.
Check out the gallery below for more images from Holy Week and Easter