Hundreds of the Christian faithful in New Paltz paraded down Main Street on a bright sunny Sunday, March 29 for the annual Palm Sunday procession. The event was put together by the New Paltz Church Council, a group made up of clergy from all of the Christian churches in New Paltz uniting together in common purpose to celebrate the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes with Easter Sunday.
“We parade through New Paltz to offer a blessing on this community and on the world,” said Pastor Tobias Anderson of Redeemer Lutheran Church. “This is a chance to proclaim God’s love.”
Palm Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem the week before his death and resurrection. The Bible states that as Jesus rode into the city on the back of a donkey, he was met by crowds who lined the streets with palm branches and waved them exultantly. In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory.
The Palm Sunday procession in New Paltz stepped off from the middle school. As the police department closed Main Street to traffic temporarily, a lone donkey led the way, signifying Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and rider-less to show that Christ is really leading everyone, said Pastor Anderson. The donkey and her handlers, three young men from the Woodcrest Christian Community in Rifton, were followed by members of the Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians pipe and drum band in green plaid kilts and black sweaters, who set the tone for the procession with a stirring flourish of bagpipes. They were followed by representatives of the Knights of Columbus and the women’s Columbiettes Auxiliary.
Next in the procession were acolytes from all of the churches represented in the collective Church Council, who filled the air with the heady scent of incense rising from metal thuribles. Members of the clergy followed with the faithful of all ages, who cheerfully waved palm branches in the air. The end of the procession was brought up by a brass band and a float for those who wanted to participate but couldn’t walk the entire route.
Highland resident Teri Jones, who serves as deacon at three different churches in the area — St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New Paltz, Ascension Holy Trinity Church in Highland and Christ Episcopal Church in Marlboro — said she was marching not only because Palm Sunday is an important day for Christians, but because of the number of churches represented in the event. “It shows a unification and cooperation between all the churches,” she said. “That’s really the best part of this. It’s hard for small churches to survive individually and be a presence in the community.”
The procession wound down Main Street and then over to Hasbrouck Park, ending at St. Joseph’s Church with the singing of hymns and prayer, followed by a reception.