On Palm Sunday, as Christians across the world celebrated what the Gospels say was Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, nearly 50 worshippers gathered at St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Lindenhurst and 500 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.
For the Episcopalians, it was a day of hopefulness, but also uncertainty. A much-beloved priest, Steve Foster, was reassigned recently, and his replacement had not yet arrived; pews that were once "cram-jammed," as Warden Gracine Sermons, 65, put it, were not full, with some parishioners having died or moved away in recent years.
Those who remain are busy. June Nearon, 84, a retired administrator for New York City, came early for the morning prayer and is coming back Monday to count offerings. Matthew Olifiers, 52, a teacher and the son of the church's founding rector, played the violin in a recital following the service. David Crane, 81, a retired Air Force logistics officer who changes the flags outside and cleans inside most weeks, carried the cross in the procession.
The guest celebrant, Bishop Johncy Itty, had asked the congregation to think about why they re-enacted Jesus' walk. Crane had a ready answer: "You have to make the trip you're taking worthy of what he did," he said. "The trip may not be the easiest to make, but you do it anyway."
In Rockville Centre, at the 12:30 p.m. Mass, the Rev. Andrzej Zglejszewski asked the Roman Catholic congregation to consider re-enactment as well. "How often, as soon as we leave the walls of the church and the time of prayer, do we also crucify him?" he asked. "We crucify him by the things we say and the things we do."
Barbara Vaupel, a teacher from Rockville Centre, took it as an admonition to "carry love out of church to brothers and sisters in our daily lives."
Neal Vaupel, her husband, who is retired from AT&T, said that over the next year he hoped Roman Catholic leaders worldwide would obey that as well: "Actions, not words."