Bob Mitchell: Easter living cross memories and thoughts

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

To say Easter isn’t what it was over four decades ago would probably be unfair to today’s generations, so I will just call it different.

The activities of this special holiday observing the resurrection of Jesus Christ was nearly a production 82 years ago, when my generation was in the fourth and fifth grades.

In those days our school stood atop the West Seventh Street hill in Cassville and our teachers were Ruby Fern Meador and Grace Hawk, who shared the responsibility of getting the program together which included most of the lower grades of the elementary school at that time.

Then there were the Cassville and area churches that would either hold individual services or provide a breakfast after the service.

These programs were outdoors at sunrise if weather permitted. In case of inclement weather they would move the service to the Community Building with its stage and amphitheater seating.

Elimination of Easter Sunrise Services would have been quite acceptable back in the elementary school days of several of us in our more senior years that are still around these days.

Presentation of the Living Cross

Cassville schools were located at the top of the West Seventh Street hill more years ago than I would like to recognize, which was a prime opportunity to use the school to provide the Easter Sunrise Service location plus a majority of the program for the observance. The steepest part of the hill was used for the main event.

A favorite of the observance was the human cross that was built just off the crest of the hill for the viewing of the audience further down the street. My memory doesn’t extend to whether seats were provided for those observing or not, but undoubtedly they were, probably people would bring their own.

Anyway, the Living Cross performance required that each kid had to be wearing a white sheet over their clothing, and if possible it had to be worn similar to a poncho or at least so it didn’t drag the ground. The arranging of the cross wasn’t difficult for the kids, all they had to do was remember who was standing on either side of them and the formation continued on and on, having previously been outlined in chalk for accuracy.

I never did get to see this formation from the down hill location, but it must have been something to see, especially since it was formed before the sun came up and as it came over the hills to the east, the white clad youngsters must have really shined against the paved street. Yes, that street was paved in those days.

When weather forced a move to downtown, bleachers had to be constructed on the stage for arranging the cross.

After the presentation by the school’s Sunrise Service there was normally a gathering of folks for donuts and coffee or milk, at the Old Community Building on the west side of the public square, which later became Hall Theater.

Other services became enjoyable

Enjoyed in later years were Easter Sunrise Services at Viney Creek public use area on Table Rock Lake. On the south side of the reservoir, this program was presented by Golden Baptist Church. The unfortunate part of this service was the rains that came a number of years requiring services to be moved to the home church.

Another beautiful Sunrise Service comes through the churches of the Shell Knob community, which were held north of the area off Highway 39 at the Hilltop Scenic Overlook. This event was sponsored by The Alliance of Churches.

My Easter thoughts and reminders

Featured in many churches are stained glass windows as their decor, which includes a scene of Christ and the tomb in which he was placed after being crucified on the cross. This is an every-service reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for mankind.

Sunday’s observance of this event might closely resemble Christmas to all those who believe, for without the sacrifice on the cross, people would be left with no hope.

Those windows of colored glass, and other constant reminders of what Jesus gave to the world on that day he died and lay in the tomb, have become our observance of Easter Sunday.

This Easter can easily become a truly obvious event for today’s Christians to rejoice in the event and thank the Lord for the opportunities that have evolved out of the sacrifice for today’s generations. This year is a special one to be thankful for blessings from above.

Today, we’re given the opportunity to renew a faith in respective religions or beliefs. The fact is, Jesus arose from that tomb and reappeared before some of his family and many of his followers, which is sufficient reason for us to make it our purpose to remember him and follow his teachings in our lives and careers.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.