I grew up in California where palm trees are abundant. It was pretty easy for members of my congregation to find fronds for Palm Sunday, when Lutherans and other Christians gather outside the church and process into the sanctuary reenacting Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But what if you live in less tropical climates where palm trees aren't local? Some Christians, worried about the environmental impact of securing palm fronds, have found an "eco-friendly" solution. And more than a few reporters chose that angle for their annual Palm Sunday stories. Here's Steven Vegh with the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
Nearly 2,000 years ago, an excited crowd welcomed Jesus by going green: spreading fresh-cut branches before him on his last, fateful trip into Jerusalem.
For Palm Sunday today, Second Presbyterian Church is going green, too, by displaying "eco-palm" fronds harvested in an environmentally friendly, economically sustainable way.
More than 640,000 eco-palm fronds will be waved today by 2,500 congregations, including seven in South Hampton Roads. The palms are marketed by the Center for Integrated Natural Resource and Agricultural Management at the University of Minnesota.
The Associated Press had the same story, focusing on the business angle, but with interesting perspective from the congregations:
The project has been an easy sell to churches in the United States, many of which were already promoting fair trade chocolate and coffee to congregants, said Kattie Somerfeld, a coordinator at Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore.
"The idea that you want to pay the people at the bottom of that value chain enough to feed their families and send their kids to school is something that our congregations were already in the habit of doing," she said.
Scott Jewett, a seminary student in Bexley, Ohio, said he hadn't realized until last year that churches were unintentionally supporting over-harvesting by buying traditionally used palm fronds that tend to be longer.
After reading about the Eco-Palms project in a magazine, he persuaded the pastor and others at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to order from Eco-Palms, even though orders cost about $20 more.
The Austin American-Statesman also wrote about the Eco-Palms project. The Palm Beach Daily News asked area pastors where they get their fronds and found that some ship them in and others cut them down from trees on church property.
For other coverage, we could check out the Fall River (MA) Herald News. Apparently the reporter covering Palm Sunday was under the impression that only Catholics celebrate the movable feast. The Brownsville (TX) Herald ran a single-source story on how one priest marks the day. Newsday did a nice roundup of Palm Sunday on Long Island, including a detail involving ... Miley Cyrus. Who knew?
Perhaps my favorite story was from the Los Angeles Times' Tony Barboza. He highlighted Esteban Torres, a florist who transforms palm fronds into pieces of art:
Torres sells the pieces -- $5 for a flower, $7 for a cross -- but making them is also an act of devotion for him.
"I'm not a perfect Catholic, but this is my way of helping the church," he said.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, when he rode into the city on a donkey and crowds welcomed him by waving and laying date palm fronds in his path.
For Catholics, the holy day marks the end of the solemn, 40-day season of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, in which worshipers remember Jesus' last supper and his crucifixion and culminate the observances by celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
It's probably worth mentioning in a story such as this that Christians who are not Catholic also commemorate Palm Sunday. Also, while I believe that Eastern Christians conclude Lent on the Friday before Palm Sunday (which is on a different calendar, of course), all Western Christians who mark Lent conclude the penitential season on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. The Orange County Register also ran a story about Torres, had the same description of the end of Lent and described Palm Sunday as a Catholic festival. Both stories ran on the same day.
Image via Wikimedia.