Wearing brightly colored traditional dresses, smocks and headdresses, more than 2,000 worshipers from around the Northeast gathered at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford this weekend to celebrate Easter Ghanaian-style.
It is the first time the New York region of The Church of Pentecost U.S.A. Inc. brought its annual Easter convention to the city, celebrating traditional prayers in both English and Akan, one of the languages native to Ghana. And many of the worshipers said they would like to return to Hartford next year.
Some 2,300 worshipers participated during the weekend event, which included singing, spiritual clinics and plays for children. It culminated Sunday afternoon with closing prayers by church leaders.
"Easter is a big thing in Ghana. Good Friday is a holiday. No one goes to work," said Stephen Antwi, a church elder from the Hartford Assembly in Manchester. "We go to church in bright colors and white to signify Jesus' rising. Christmas is good because Christ is born. But Easter is even better because Christ has risen."
The Church of the Pentecost is based in Ghana, a largely Christian nation on Africa's west coast, but it has hundreds of branches around the world, including 92 in the U.S., and several in Connecticut. The New York region covers Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
"Last year, we went to Pennsylvania. Two years ago, it was in Rhode Island. This is the first time we have had it here, and everyone loves it," Antwi said. "They want us to go here every year. In Hartford, it is central."
Agnes Bediako, who wore a bright green African-style dress with a white headdress to symbolize the rebirth of Jesus, said she and others from out of state like the Hartford location.
"The ballroom is spacious, and there is no noise coming from anywhere else," Bediako said.
"It's beautiful. It's a great place," said Florence Gyimah of Worcester, Mass. She was wearing a bright-orange weaved headdress that matched the orange flowers in her dress.
There was no traditional American Easter meal of turkey or ham at Sunday's event, and no sign of the Easter bunny, which is also not a part of the traditional Ghanaian celebration.
"The purpose is to celebrate the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to bring the gospel to Hartford," said The Rev. John Ofori, of the Hartford branch of the church.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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