Detroit Churches Pull Out All the Stops for the ‘Super Bowl’ of Christianity, Easter Sunday

The Praise and Worship Singers practice at Perfecting Church in Detroit, which is bringing in an orchestra for Sunday services. (Photo: Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
The Praise and Worship Singers practice at Perfecting Church in Detroit, which is bringing in an orchestra for Sunday services.
(Photo: Steve Perez / The Detroit News)

At Triumph Church in Detroit, a weeklong Easter worship program filled with Grammy Award-winning performers will culminate in a 500-member children’s choir taking the stage for a spectacular Sunday extravaganza.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, will honor the Resurrection with a mix of 1,500-year-old chants and performances from the Motor City Brass Quintet, whose members include musicians from Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band.

And across town, Perfecting Church is bringing in an orchestra to perform “Worthy Is the Lamb Slain,” an original composition by Pastor Marvin L. Winans, as the culmination of its massive Easter celebrations.

When it comes to religious commemoration, Easter is the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics all wrapped up in one, according to Metro Detroit music ministers. These maestros seek to educate, entertain and inform parishioners. It is a chance to impress as well as express the most important event in Christianity — the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As a result, the Metro Detroit faithful are treated to world-class musical performances befitting a Broadway show. These productions take months to organize and weeks of rehearsals to create. The effort is worth it because it is a tribute to their beliefs and their dedication to their craft, religious leaders and musical directors say.

“The music is very intentionally the score to the emotion of the week,” said the Rev. Stephen Butler Murray, president and professor of systematic theology and preaching for the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit.

“So much of the living energy of the Church is communicated through the sound of the organ, the blare of the trumpet,” Murray said. “Not only do we have bigger audiences than the rest of the year, but we need to go above and beyond our normal capabilities — even in music — to capture the grandness of this moment and what it says about our beliefs as Christians.”

People across the United States celebrate Easter in different ways, but many will attend a religious service this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade association in Washington, D.C. More than half will visit family and friends, 55.6 percent will cook a holiday meal, 15.6 percent will go to a restaurant and 51.3 percent will go to church.

Alongside the religious meaning, there are financial, strategic and other considerations at play. Metro Detroit churches go out of their way to advertise all-star events on their websites, YouTube and elsewhere, hoping to impress “Easter Christians” and add them to their year-round congregations.

Robin Ware, director of pastoral affairs and events at Triumph Church, says, “I have to make sure I take my vitamins” to get through this intense week of hosting guest performers, fitting blazers on the Youthful Praise Resurrection Mega Choir and ensuring Pastor Solomon Kinloch Jr. has everything he needs to get through more than 15 services this Easter weekend.

“It’s like boot camp this week,” said Perfecting’s minister of music David Buford, who at one point was directing five simultaneous rehearsals across the church.

This year is special in other ways as well: Buford’s daughter, who is part of the Kids of the Kingdom choir, will be performing for the first time.

“Music plays an important part in bringing families together,” Buford said. “People who might not normally come to church will come to see their kids perform. … A lot of people, sad to say, won’t remember the message that’s taught that day. But they’ll remember the songs.”

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SOURCE: The Detroit News – Karen Dybis