Saint Andrew AME Church is choosing to go against the grain this year, encouraging churchgoers to come to "The Saint" on Easter Sunday dressed in casual attire, and then to leave the sanctuary for the streets, to perform "The Resurrection Shake" on South Parkway.
Traditionally, churchgoers in the South come to church dressed up on Easter Sunday. Getting a new Easter outfit has been a common cultural practice for children and adults who celebrate Easter.
For 20 years at Saint Andrew, fifth Sundays have been "Come As You Are" Sundays, when everybody – from the pulpit to the pews – intentionally dresses down, even if that is a departure from their customary attire. It's been a mission-driven, evangelistic statement to the public, and to the thousands of persons who are served annually by The Saint's outreach programs, that the Lord isn't looking at the outward appearance, but at people's hearts.
Since this 5th Sunday coincides with Easter, Saint Andrew will be opening its doors wide to all who want and need to hear about the new life – not the new outfit – that Easter offers.
The attire for the day is what we are calling "Cute and Casual for The Cross." The idea is that children can still look cute saying their Easter speeches while they and all the adults will be appropriately attired but totally casual. Individuals, parents and families looking for a comfortable, open and welcoming place to worship are invited to Easter Services.
Casual clothing levels the playing field. We'll all be able to focus on "The Cross" and the "Resurrection," rather than on what everyone has on.
Following the 11 a.m. "Resurrection Service," we are encouraging St. Andrew's members to spill out into South Parkway in their cute and casual clothes to perform their own version of the YouTube sensation, "The Harlem Shake." Their "Resurrection Shake" is to further celebrate their new life in Christ – very publicly – as the members literally shake off the "grave clothes" of their old lives.
The purpose of the unusual Easter celebration is practical and Biblical.
First, many families are still caught in the grips of a stubborn recession, and simply should not feel the pressure to spend limited resources on new Easter outfits purchased more for the day and the tradition than for other practical use.
Second, the commercialization of Easter and the focus on clothing stand in contrast to the spirit of "The Word," and as a barrier to reaching persons in the community who may desire to take this particular Sunday to come to church. Jesus' ministry was not limited to the faithful, nor to the privileged, nor to any select group; but was rather extended to everybody. Jesus included everybody in His ministry, in the benefits that came through His death, and in the new and better life that resulted from His resurrection.
For these reasons, we believe that Easter is certainly the day for everybody to hear that message unencumbered by concerns about what they have or how they look. Taking the celebration "to the streets" will use a contemporary media sensation to send a contemporary message to everybody in South Memphis that Jesus is yet alive and relevant, and that everybody can have a new life in Christ.
At a glance
• The Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. and the Rev. Marilynn S. Robinson are the pastors of Saint Andrew.
• The first of four Easter observances begins at 6 a.m. with the "Son-Rise" Service, followed by the 9 a.m. Easter program, the 11 a.m. Resurrection Celebration Service, and then "The Resurrection Shake."
• Saint Andrew is located at 867 South Parkway E.
• For more information, visit www.saintandrewamec.org; call 901-948-3441