Church To Reclaim The Spiritual Roots Of Mardi Gras

SCOTCH PLAINS—On Sunday, Feb. 14, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church will hold its fourth annual Mardi Gras jazz worship service, beginning at 10 a.m.  A light brunch will follow the service at the Scotch Plains church.

Willow Grove’s pastor, The Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, gives perspective on the celebration. “Although the current traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans seem far from a Christian celebration of God’s love for humanity in Jesus Christ, we can reclaim those religious roots and enjoy the rich musical traditions of jazz, gospel and spirituals that give voice to our faith.”


Listen to and sing a variety of jazz gospel pieces and spirituals, including the choir in an arrangement of “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and a finale of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

This year’s music will feature the Dixie Mix Jazz Band which has been performing since 1995 throughout Central New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, including the rotunda at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Raritan Valley Theater in Branchburg. The quintet consists of Hank D’Angelo from Woodbridge on tenor sax, Rod Anderson from Princeton on clarinet, Doug Rollender (Director) from Bridgewater on trombone, Alex Duque of Bridgewater on bass, and Willow Grove Church’s Director of Music Paul DiDario from South Plainfield on piano.

Concurrent childcare and children’s classes are provided, but children are also welcome to remain in the worship service.

All worshippers are invited to stay for a light brunch of egg and cheese casserole, croissants, and fruit.  The church will also serve King’s Cakes, made to honor of the Magi, the three kings.  Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Into each cake is baked a small doll, symbolizing the baby Jesus.

People search for the baby Jesus in the cake, remembering the three wise men who looked for Jesus after his birth.  Finding the baby Jesus will win you a prize.

If possible, churchgoers should make reservations by Thursday, Feb. 11, through the church office at 1-908-232-5678 or by email at

Willow Grove Presbyterian Church at 1961 Raritan Road, across the street from the Scotch Plains Southside Firehouse and Southside Soccer Field, and near the corner of South Martine Avenue.

Dixie Mix Members Doug Rolellender, Hank D’Angleo and Rod Anderson in Willow Grove Sanctuary for Mardi Gras Celebration. Photo courtesy of Willow Grove Presbyterian Church

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