FORT WAYNE, INDIANA
The Easter Bunny has had a "love-hate" relationship with Christianity over the years. For many, the mysterious character that comes on Easter Eve to bring children baskets full of candy is nothing more than a fun fantasy for kids to enjoy. But for others, the idea of the Easter Bunny represents commercialism and selfishness, ignoring the true meaning of the holiday. Some Christian leaders have tried to find a way to "Christianize" the Easter Bunny, making him relevant some how to the whole celebration of the resurrection, but none have successfully accomplished the task. That is, perhaps, until this week when Gateway Church unveiled their latest idea.
"The subject of the Easter Bunny is a tough one." Said the church's pastor, Carter Wilson. "With Santa Claus, at least you have the Christian character of St. Nicholas to refer to. But with Easter it's a magical bunny rabbit. Some parents just have a problem with that. So we've got to take a different approach to this situation if it's going to work."
Wilson's approach, in his own words, involves "balance."
"I finally realized that the Easter Bunny alone is pretty hard to spiritualize. He needs someone to balance him out. That's where we came up with the idea of the Holy Week Turtle."
"The concept of the Holy Week Turtle is simple." Said Erin Bennett, a member of Gateway Church who helped Wilson develop the idea. "The turtle is a slow, almost depressed animal which represents the sadness and the almost dirge-like feel of Holy Week, especially on the eve of the crucifixion. But what this character does is make the Easter Bunny really have relevance! The bunny is a fast and upbeat creature. Just like the bursting forth of the resurrection, we have the bunny rabbit with bursting speed."
Bennett further went on to explain that the Holy Week Turtle comes on the eve of Good Friday (Maundy Thursday), but instead of giving kids candy, he takes away all of the candy and sweets in a particular house.
"So kids wake up on Good Friday morning and all of the candy and sweets are gone." Said Wilson. "No cookies, brownies, jelly beans, etc. It's all been taken away. So the kids are sad, and the sweetness has been taken out of life. It's just like the crucifixion. But what's so amazing is that on Sunday morning the Easter Bunny comes and fills the house again with sweetness, abundant sweetness, just like the resurrection!"
Gateway Church began promoting the idea for several weeks prior to Holy Week, meeting secretly with parents and trying to get as many families involved as possible.
"We have almost 100% participation from our parents." Said Wilson. "We've been telling our kids 'Be careful, cause the old Holy Week Turtle is going to come tonight and snatch away all of our sweetness!' But just think how happy they'll be on Sunday morning when the good old Easter Bunny brings all of that back. It will be a deeply moving moment for our families I'm sure."