Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Good Friday, Tenebrae and Other Possibilities

At our church, we had some interesting experiments with Holy Week services.  Today, I'll write about Good Friday; tomorrow I'll write about what we did in the place of foot washing on Maundy Thursday.

On Good Friday, at noon, we did our traditional service of Tenebrae.  Our sanctuary doesn't have any clear glass windows, and our stained glass is really more like colored chunks in stucco.  So, the sanctuary is fairly gloomy in broad daylight.  It's not like the Tenebrae service of my childhood, with the sanctuary growing dark and then plunged into blackness and then the slamming of the Bible.  But it was traditional.

At the evening service, we had a meditation on the 7 last words of Jesus.  Our pastor asked for volunteers, and the meditations were primarily of the personal kind.  I found it more moving than I expected.  I was worried that it would all veer into the land of the maudlin or the much-too-personal. 

You may say, "Aren't you Lutherans?  And you worried about everyone getting inappropriately personal?"  Yes, because like most churches, we come from a variety of traditions.

But I needn't have feared.  And between each meditation, we had a hymn sung by the congregation or a piece sung by the choir.

There wasn't as much participation as I'd have liked, but our Tenebrae service didn't have as much participation as I'd like. 

On the other hand, Good Friday presents an appropriate time to be more meditative, to sit and contemplate the meaning of it all.

When I think about next year, however, I want to record a different possibility--not one that would take the place of a service, but an additional way to encounter the text.

We've done a walking of the labyrinth combined with the stations of the cross which has worked well--except for the past two years when we got torrential rain.  I'd like to encourage people to walk the labyrinth.  But I'd also like to have an indoor meditation site.

Actually, I have a vision of 7 stations, one for each of the last words of Jesus.  I'd like a variety of options at each table.  I'd like to encourage people to meditate on the words by working in charcoal or paint or pastel.  I'd like to have a writing option at each table.  And perhaps we could do other things, like have small cups of vinegar at the "I thirst" table.

I like doing this with the 7 last words, rather than the stations of the cross.  For one thing, it would require less set up and take down.  I have more ideas for the last words than for the stations of the cross.  Plus, many of the stations seem similar.  The last words are quite different, one from another.

We could have the opportunity set up in the Fellowship Hall.  We could have it set up all afternoon into the time after the night service.

Could we leave the fellowship hall unlocked and unmonitored?  We've had some trouble getting people to staff the labyrinth when we had that activity.  Most people don't have the day off anymore.

And then there's the other issue:  would there be enough interest?  Many of us already have lots of Holy Week activities.  Would we want one more obligation?

Maybe it's time to think about other times of the year.  Maybe we shouldn't save these kind of meditative experiences for just once a year.  Maybe it would enrich us to revisit Good Friday several times throughout the year.  Maybe it would help us remember the improbable miracle of resurrection that we celebrate each Sunday.  Maybe our joy would be revitalized by returning to Calvary more frequently than many traditions do.

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