Wednesday, April 12, 2006

easter friday does not need grotesque

Planning Easter Friday is a service I find really hard work. Here is some of the thoughts that rush through my head;
– too many words kill the feelings, yet Friday can raise a whole lot of questions that can require explanation.
– you need to let the story speak, yet the Biblical story is sparse on detail. If you push to hard to try and re-create the original, you can end up with Jesus-as-grotesque that is just your embellishment, your interpretation.
– most of the Good Friday lectionary readings buy heavily into only one atonement image – suffering Christ. Do you push this one atonement image, or offer others?
– the text needs to be handled aware of the dangers of anti-Semitism.

Here’s what I’ve come to for 2006, with some brief explanation in italics. If you’re planning to attend, then be warned, that if you click the link and read on, it might be a spoiler ….

Easter Friday: 9:00; 10:30; same service repeated (The Easter Journey is open 20 minutes after the 10:30 service.)

Environment: Church foyer, hung with black cloth. Pavers on floor. Wooden cross laid on floor. One projector screen. One candle.

Trying to set a simple reflective context. The space is different than our normal space, to emphasis the importance. The cross is the focus.

People need 1 nail, 1 white rose petal and a service sheet.
Music: The passion, Mary goes to jesus.

Participation is essential to help people enter the story and respond as whole-bodied people. It also builds curiousity.

Words of welcome: Today is Easter Friday.
This is the day when life is raw and pain is real
It is a day of numbed emotions.
The day of blunt nails, And splintered wood
Of bruised flesh, And red blood
The day to cry; because a friend is dead
The day to hope; because the worst that humans do can never kill love.

I’m trying to make this emotionally real, yet within the context of love, not voyeurism and fascination with blood and guts.

Song: Were you there (first 3 verses)

A way to gather and a way to respond and a simple song can give voice to feelings.

Visual reading: GoodFriday from here.

Great visual. It also sets the story within a political framework. It offers some sort of scene set and some answer to the why did this happen.

Reading: Isaiah 53: 2-8, 12; Hebrews 4:14-16

Reflection: What does it mean for us to go to Jesus today? Music: the passion; mary goes to jesus.

Some word-less processing space. Someone is dying here and people need to process this.

Prayer: Saviour of the world. Taken from Stages on the way

This prayer leads into confession. I like to provide a way for people to express their feelings of sin and remorse. It also means I am subverting any anti-Semitic undertones, because the Easter message is that all of humanity is looking bad.

Confession: people have been seated in three different sections. Each section is invited, one at a time, to bring a nail and drop it beside the cross. After each section we will all say together; Father forgive for we know not what we do.

I like to use the actual words of Jesus. Keeps it within the Biblical story. I also like the way that this allows people to pray for other people. It affirms that we gather not as individuals, but that we worship aware of each other’s bodies and the body of Christ.

Words of freedom: Believe the Good News: In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Mention sin and you have to offer forgiveness. We are bearers of good news of grace and freedom, not judgement and guilt. If people leave feeling guilty, it is not a gospel liturgy.

Reading: It was on Friday. Taken from Stages on the way

This reading again focuses on the crowd as all of humanity.

Visual reading: “Special Cases” video by Massive Attack (Download from here).

Superb video. I will play it without sound. It will set up the response and will, I hope, reinforce themes of emotionally real, yet within the context of love, not voyeurism and fascination with blood and guts.

Response: The wrapping of the cross:
If you would like to, you may express your love for Jesus
by placing a petal around the cross (which now symbolises Jesus’ body).

Allows whole-bodied response and worship aware of our bodies and the body of Christ.

During the Easter Journey, at Station 9, people were instructed:
Think about someone you know who is having a hard time.
Take a stone and write their name on it.
Leave the stone in a pack.
We will add these backpacks (people’s worship) to the cross.

I am really pleased with this, as it links worship of our Easter Journey with this gathered act of worship, to intwine both. I also like the way that something of us will be carried out with Jesus. Again, we are being intwined with the story.

The cross will then be wrapped in sackcloth, and taken away.

Music: The passion, The crucifixion

The cross, with nails, petals and backpacks filled with stones, is wrapped in brown scrim and is taken outside. A hole is left. This is a visually very powerful moment when the enormity of loss is realised. Yet it is done through symbol and movement and not by watching a human being beaten to pulp. In that sense I think it’s more faithful to a text that is sparse in graphic detail.

Giver of life we wait with you.
to bear your hope in earth’s darkest places.
Where love is denied: let love break through
Where justice is destroyed: let righteousness rule
Where hope is crucified: let faith persist
Where truth is denied: let the struggle continue

The Lord’s Prayer: We will say this all together, again underlining our corporate gathering.
Video: Redemption song. Created by Mark Berry .

Offers redemption and thus some ‘why’.

The service will end in silence. Stay as long as you want. Leave when you want. As you leave, please be respectful of those who remain.

Often people don’t know what to do at the end, so it offers some guidance.

Easter Friday is part (a) of a two part story.
Join us on on Easter Sunday at 10:30 am.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM


  1. I always feel so overwhelmed on Good Friday and for me it symbolises a fresh start no matter what has happened in the months proceeding. Since becoming a parent I have felt the power of God’s love and forgiveness unconditionally, and I am moved and humbled beyond words at the sacrifice on Good Friday all those years ago, for me a mere sinner.
    Hope the service goes well.

    Comment by Paula Weir — April 12, 2006 @ 9:28 pm

  2. Howd it go Steve?

    Comment by Mark Berry — April 18, 2006 @ 7:30 am

  3. Really well thanks Mark. For the first time we ran 2 mirror services on the Friday and we had people standing in the aisles for one. Your visual was a great ending. Any feedback for you from the Beeb?

    Comment by steve — April 18, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

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