Friday, April 14, 2006

Memorable Good Fridays Past

As Director of Christian Education, I don't have additional responsibilities during Holy Week, unlike many of my RevGal blog pals. On the contrary, I find myself spending time assuring people that, yes, Sunday School classes WILL be meeting on Easter. (??? But that's a post for another day.) The burden of the week falls on the pastors and the music folks. Today I've been relaxing with Babs, who is home for Easter weekend and remembered some Good Fridays past.

Back when I was in college, the music for the production Jesus Christ Superstar first came out. The full soundtrack was played beginning at noon in our church in San Antonio on Good Friday as the focus of the service. The church was starkly modern and Calvinist in design, with a roof of bare timbers and a driftwood cross over the communion table. Outside the day was bright and sunny while inside the dramatic story unfolded through rock music. The service was very brief: an opening prayer and a brief introduction to the album. Everyone left in silence when it finished. I was very moved by the experience.

My father came with me. Daddy was a music snob of the first rank. An aficianado of classical religious music who normally had no time for anything written after 1700, nonetheless Daddy LOVED Jesus Christ Superstar. The "generation gap" was the subject of much nattering by the chattering classes back then, but the two of us had no generation gap that day.

Many years later when Babs and Portia were very little, we lived near downtown Houston. I was a member of the choir of First Presbyterian Church there, and was asked to join a small group to sing on Good Friday at their lunchtime service. A medium sized crowd gathered in the large sanctuary and the service was brief enough to accomodate those who were attending during their lunch hour. This was the first time I sang in such a small group and was very nervous about it. But once the magnificent organ filled the sanctuary, my fears melted away and my self-conciousness evaporated. This was the first time I knew the truth of St. Augustine's adage "who sings in worship, prays twice."

More recently, the youth group at my present church presented a very moving Good Friday service with a drama that included soliloquies by Biblical characters who surrounded the cross, according to the Gospels. The young people did a wonderful job. After each character spoke the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed a little bit and something from the chancel area of the sanctuary was taken away--the chalice, the communion plate, the table, the pulpit hangings, the candles, etc. Finally the area was bare, except for a large wooden cross. The group draped the cross in black and the lights were fully extinguished as the congregation exited in silence.

What was your most memorable Good Friday service?


Rev Dave said...

Well, QG, lots of churches _don't_ have Sunday School on Easter due to length of services, etc. Or, in our case, the youth will be feeding us breakfast and then taking the younger kids out for an Easter Egg hunt.
This means that the fellowship hall will be fill with high pitched excited voices; I found out last year that even after the kids leave for the hunt, it's still just as loud as all the adults keep yacking. The noise level doesn't change, just the pitch.
A good time will be had by all.

Off to read Jesus' part in the Passion,

Rev Dave

Rev Dave said...

Oh, I forgot to answer your original question about memorable Good Fridays.

Tops for me so far in my limited career was leading the ecumenical service during my internship. Mid-day, 45-50 minutes, and I, a lowly serminary student, got to tell all the mainline pastors in town what to do!

The high point was the closing acapella solo of "Were You There" by a black Episcopalian gospel singer (yes, you read that right). No mic, just her voice filling the sanctuary with raw power. Every rendition I've heard of it since sounds weak by comparison. I can hear her still, and still get shivers remembering it.

reverendmother said...

I remember a responsive reading of the passion story several Good Fridays ago. Rather than having the congregation take the "crowd" lines "crucify him!" we read the part of Jesus. It was very interesting to have that reversal. So WE were the ones giving up our lives, WE were the ones pronouncing God's forgiveness.

I also attended a Tenebrae service in Rothko Chapel years ago--that venue is pretty much made for Good Friday.

Elaine said...

Last year I did the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in the form of a retreat in daily life. (Spread out over 8 months instead of a 30 residential retreat.) We were required to make a one-day, silent, self-directed retreat during Holy Week. I did mine at a local retreat center on Good Friday.

The Holy Week one-day retreat was a real culmination for the entire exercises. Words are completely inadequate, but it was both a day -- and an experience -- that I will never forget.

The Ingatius Exercises have been in constant use for 500 years for a reason.

Norman, OK

Gannet Girl said...

The Ignatian Exercises are affecting my Holy Week in a big way this year. too.

little david said...

In La Jolla CA I was invited to do a monologue as Simon Peter for the Good Friday service at a Baptist church. Dressed in black, I recounted the confusion, bravado, betrayal, despair, horror, and glimmer of understanding that Peter must have experienced. As the monologue went along, I extinguished the seven candles one by one. And the congregation was very still at the end; you could hear sniffling. I have done that monlogue in various venues, but this one was th emost receptive.