Even though Grace Church Van Vorst’s head pastor – Janet Broderick Kraft – stepped down from her post last month, the church will continue its unique, entertainment-filled Easter church service on Saturday, April 11.
With a starting time of 6 p.m., the service, known as the “Hallelujah Project,” will be a multicultural extravaganza incorporating contemporary and traditional music (ranging from gospel to R&B, rock to hymns, folk to pan-Asian), dance, and visual arts, influenced by the many communities that worship at Grace Van Vorst.
Line dancing and inspirational music sung in Chinese are just some of the performances that will highlight the annual service. Grace Church Van Vorst is located Erie Street in downtown Jersey City. The service is actually the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter.
According to Claire Guerette, a 14-year member of the church and one of the organizers of the service, the idea came about last fall when there was discussion with Broderick and with Assistant Pastor Nick Lannon. They discussed celebrating the various cultures and groups that use Grace Van Vorst’s space.
The church is also known for its out-of-the-box approaches to celebrating the word of God, such as their “U2 charist” service last year, in which they and other Episcopal churches across the country played tapes and performed live the music of rock star band U2. They also have performed the religious-themed musical “Godspell” in past years.
“We had just done the U2 services, which brought a lot of people to the church,” Guerrette said. “And we saw how the church needed to be more accessible to people who had never gone to church before or had stopped going over the years, and were happy to come back.”
Somewhere between Good Friday and Easter
How does one bridge one of the darkest days in Christianity – the crucifixion of Christ, marked by Good Friday – with one of Christendom’s most jubilant days, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection?
By putting on an event on the day between those holy days that allows worshippers to venerate a higher power, yet liberate themselves from the strictures of a formal service.
The Hallelujah Project, made possible through a grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, includes playing Quincy Jones’ gospel version of the famed Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The Hallelujah Project is conducted by Michael Crane, a Jersey City musician and music teacher, and features the Grace Van Vorst worship band under the direction of GCVV music director Peter Moffit.
“I think on Saturday, we will open some eyes.” – Claire Guerette
“About everyone I approached about this was really excited about this endeavor, although there were a few that were skeptical about it being pulled off,” Guerette said. “I think on Saturday, we will open some eyes.”
Admission is free to the public, though donations will be accepted. All donations collected will directly benefit the York Street Project in Jersey City, which provides housing, education, and childhood development with counseling and life-skills training to more than 300 economically disadvantaged women and children each year.
For more information about the Hallelujah Project, call Claire Guerette at (201) 294-1872.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.