•Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus, signifies hope for Christians.
•Faith helps Armenians maintain their identity.
Fresno had a difficult last week: A fire captain was burned while fighting a house fire; police Deputy Chief Keith Foster resigned while facing multiple drug charges; Gov. Jerry Brown announced the state’s first mandatory water reductions.
So on Easter Sunday, we wanted to know: How does faith help people through tough times?
At Saint Rest Baptist Church in west Fresno, people came out in their Sunday best — bright outfits, big jewelry, floppy hats — for three hours of music, praise and fellowship. The tone of the Rev. D.J. Criner’s message was uplifting, noting that Jesus’ story wasn’t over when he hung his head.
“When everything around us is torn up, it’s the cross and it’s the grave that gives us joy,” he said after the service. “If Christ can get up, what we’re going through is small.”
Likewise, Criner said, west Fresno is still devastated by what happened with Foster at the police department. After Foster’s arrest, Criner said the news cut the community “because that’s one of ours.” But he said they will get through it.
Katrina Lewis-Burnley, a member of the church, echoed Criner’s sentiment.
“We all have sinned,” the 32-year-old said. “His sin is no different than ours.”
Lewis-Burnley said faith is a foundation for people when they don’t really know what to do or how to feel. She said she has been praying for Foster’s family and that of the burned firefighter Pete Dern.
Across town at Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, the message was similar though for different reasons. April 24 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. By its end in 1923, an estimated 1.5 million people were dead.
But the Rev. Ara Guekguezian kept the genocide out of his message Sunday because the resurrection shapes everything — not only what happened to Armenians a century ago. He said the genocide is part of daily conversation at the church, with many members part of the centennial commemoration efforts.
“Our Easter worship is above that,” he said. “It takes us to another place.”
Guekguezian said that like Jews, Armenians are bound by two things: Faith and language. Christianity helps maintain their identity, even away from the homeland.
The resurrection, Guekguezian said, reminds Christians that there is always hope.
“Faith doesn’t make the bad stuff go away,” he said. “Faith help us deal with it.”