Palm Sunday/Passover liturgy

Compiled by the Philadelphia Area Interfaith Peace Network, 1/14/2005

Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia April 4, 2004
Palm Sunday and Passover Eve

One important question is whether Palm Sunday can be made a multireligious event rather than a specifically and solely Christian one.

To that end, I want to share with you what the Philadelphia Area Interfaith Peace Network did with Palm Sunday a year ago, when it fell on April 4 and was also the day before the first night of Passover.

The Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia joined with The Shalom Center, the [Episcopalian] Church of the Advocate (which was the central church of the Philadelphia civil-rights movement and also the church where the first Episcopalian women priests were ordained), and a number of other religious leaders and congregations, including some Muslims, to create an extraordinary Palm Sunday observance. It was probably the first in history (since the very first one!) to involve Jews.

What made multireligious participation possible was that Palm Sunday was reconfigured as a memorial of a Jewish Resistance Movement protest against the Roman Empire, timed deliberately for the Passover season when the overthrow of Pharaoh was celebrated in Jerusalem. This Palm-waving demonstration was led by Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew and indeed one of the rabbis — albeit a most remarkable one. The waving of palms was done by Jews at the harvest festival of Sukkot, long understood as the most messianic oif the festivals. Thus the palms may have been a way of asserting the beginning of Messianic times in resistance to Rome.

The procession of the Palms on 4/04/04 was carried out inside the Church of the Advocate by moving from one to another of the remarkable murals on the church walls, each of which connects a stage in the African-American freedom struggle with a biblical passage.

For the text of the recitations in the Palm procession, see below.

The procession was followed by the sacred meal and ceremonies of the Passover Seder. The Haggadah (written liturgy) for this NEW FREEDOM SEDER was reshaped to include important passages from Dr. King's April 4 Riverside speech.

For its text, and for the leaflet that explained its meaning, see —

The interwoven celebration brought together about 300 people across all conventional lines of religion, race, and age to protest the Iraq war, gun violence in the cities, and the starving of schools, health care, and other ways of meeting human needs.

--- AW


*This text corresponds with images of the murals from Church of the Advocate. Please email for a PDF with images while we are in the process of getting one online.

"If we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person- oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism." The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4,1967


ALL: We gather today to remember and to celebrate.

To remember harsh oppression and celebrate liberation.

To remember our sins and to celebrate our salvation.

To recognize New Pharaohs and rejoice in New Freedoms.

LEADER: The struggle between oppression and liberation is a difficult path, an arduous journey. It is sometimes like wilderness wandering and sometimes like triumphal entry. On this day when we remember both exodus and entry, Passover and Palm Sunday, we also lift up one whose words this day spoke prophetically to power. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this date, 37 years ago, named Racism, Militarism, and Materialism as sinful forces afflicting the nation. One year later on this date. Dr. King was brutally shot down. But the prophetic word cannot be silenced. We hear that word with fresh ears today.

We are surrounded by beautiful, powerful, perhaps even troubling images in this worship space. They may distract us or move us to clearer vision of the road we have traveled as a nation. Let us not ignore them but engage them as a means of exploring Dr. King's words and our own Journeys. In every generation there are new Pharaohs - Racism, Militarism, Materialism. In every generation there is resistance and the cry, the prayer for freedom.

**images and much of the following text are from

3. Biblical Text: "And they brought Joseph into Egypt"

Genesis 37:28

Parallel: "And we were brought into America"

Artist: Walter Edmond

As Joseph, by his brothers was sold into slavery

As black people were sold into slavery

We, too were drawn by the glitter of gold and the power

which manifests itself in our 20th century civilization

The bodies and souls of people feed on this power-mad technology apparatu

leaving broken bodies and twisted soul

So we the people left the soil and

are chained to our contemporary civilization Walter Edmond

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.

4. Biblical Text: "Come, let us deal shrewdly with them..."

Exodus 1:10

Parallel: "We began to feel that we were created to be slaves."

Artist: Richard Watson 1974

The element of psychological enslavement, as well as brute force and cruel treatment, was used to degrade and destroy the Africans' sense of self and humanity. Their language was taken away, their religious practices suppressed and outlawed, as well as names and family connections. Fear replaced pride and the concepts of white supremacy were instilled. Through it all, the spirit of the African homeland was embedded. Richard Watson

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.
6. Biblical Text: "He is despised and rejected of men....."

Isaiah 53:3

Parallel: "Jesus was despised. We, too, were despised."

Artist: Richard Watson 1974

Slaves were regarded as property and by many as less than human. The acceptance of that notion led the way for the harsh and brutal treatment of the Africans in America. The women were vulnerable to any and all liberties that a slaveowner wished to take. African men were brutalized at will, maimed and lynched. In spite of these atrocities, the African woman retained strength and courage as a guiding force for her family (as much as they were allowed), as well as "Nanny" for the slaveholder's children. Richard Watson

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.

7. Biblical Text: "Now therefore, I mill send thee (Moses) unto Pharaoh..."

Exodus 3:10

Parallel: "So God called Douglass and Harriet. Saying, 1et my people go!"

Artists: Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson 1974

Frederick Douglass was the foremost leader of African descent for the emancipation of his people. An eloquent and articulate spokesman, he wrote, published, spoke and aroused the populace in the cause for freedom. He was a shining example of dignity and confidence for Africans in America. Richard Watson

A prophet came, as Moses of old.

His name is Frederick Douglass.

He understands the light that

shines from above.

He points the way to our salvation.

Some of us are moved to act and question

The light that appears before us.

Some of us see not the light, though

it shines bright above.

So we are not moved to follow the light. Walter Edmond

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.

8. Biblical Text: "The Lord smote the first born of Egypt."

Exodus 12:29

Parallel: "So there was a great and terrible war ... L'Ouverture, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman"

Artists: Walter Edmonds and Richard Watson 1974

The overwhelming prospect was that white America was in no great hurry to regard the African slaves as part or full citizens with any rights that they should respect. Those who possessed the spirit for freedom and an abhorrence for persecution had little recourse than to strike back, as did Nat Turner, John Brown and others. To them it was worth a try, as much as the American call to liberation: "Live free or die".

Richard Watson

Nat Turner the slave,

Nat Turner revolted and he killed.

With vengeance and hatred he sought

his freedom.

We, too, must cut

The demons of greed, lust and selfishne

from our souls.

We must stop the ego mania existence

of our society. Walter Edmond

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.

9. Biblical Text: "Pharaoh pursued after the Children of Israel..."

Exodus 14:8

Parallel: "So Jim Crow pursued us to enslave us"

Artist: Walter Edmond

The once mighty Jim Crow. He ruled the land.

The institutions that supported him. The bullets that killed for him. He kept the people in darkness, Forever groping about, palms outstretched, Hoping for the life they did not know. He blocked their path that leads to Work, Justice, Education, Enlightenment, Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Happiness. Walter Edmond

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism. Militarism and Materialism.
10. Biblical Text: "The voice cried, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord".

Isaiah 40:3

Parallel: "The voices of the Robeson, King, Malcolm and Mohammed prepared the way" Artist: Richard Watson 1975

Life for Americans of African descent: former slaves, Negroes, blacks, etc... in the turbulent 1960's served up many frustrations. Full citizenship and participation in the American way of life had still not come to fruition. Amidst the elements of urban upheaval and civil unrest, there emerged a cadre of bold and noble spokesmen and leaders from among the people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of non-violence and integration, Elijah Mohammed's position of self-reliance and total separation from the insanity of racial injustice, Malcom X's direction of Pan Africanism, H. Rap Brown's and Stokely Carmichael's chants of "Bum, Baby, Bum," and Black Power left nothing to be desired for "roads to choose" towards freedom, justice and humanity. Richard Watson

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.

11. Biblical Text: "God hath chosen the weak to confound the mighty".

I Corinthians 1:27

Parallel: "The Sixties: the oppressed exploded".

Artist: Walter Edmonds 1975

A people who are exploited, hopeless and frustrated must arise to throw The demon off their backs. The weak will slay the mighty. The torch of liberty is held high The flames of humanity will emerge and destroy the corruption from within. Walter Edmond

All: We resist the Pharaohs of Racism, Militarism and Materialism.
14. Biblical Text; "For God did send me before you to preserve you." Parallel: "Martin Luther King, Jr. "I have a dream".

Genesis 45:5 Artist: Walter Edmonds 1976

"This painting shows, for me, the experience of actually having gone through Hell and coming into new life. God made our sufferings the awakening of new values in the nation. Students, prisoners, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, women - all had their eyes opened. Today many still seek truth, justice, equality of opportunity, redemption.

This painting in particular says, "Out from a gloomy past, how we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is cast! That is from the poem called 'Lift Every Voice and Sing'. When I was growing up, in grammar school and high school, we always called this the Negro National Anthem:

'... We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered. Out from the gloomy past, Til now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us Thus far on the way; Thou who hast by thy might, Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path we pray. . .' " The Rev. Paul M. Washington

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of liberty; Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet, Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered; Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee. Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee. Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand, True to our God, true to our native land.

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