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Good Friday: A Service of Shadows and Stones

Rocks
Our congregation has used Taizé, Tenebrae, and narratives of the Passion in past Good Friday services. I grew up in a congregation that often used the 7 last words of Christ as a focal point. I wrote this liturgy to combine some of these elements, but also wanting to add some concrete way for people to respond. I came up with the idea of using stones: stones as worry stones; stones as weights; stones as symbols of altars built where people have an encounter with God; and stones as used in modern Judaism to leave at a grave site as a way to honor the memory of the deceased.

At the beginning of the service, each person will receive a stone and be encouraged to use this stone by holding it in their hand, placing their worries on it, feeling its weight. At the end of the service, as the congregation leaves in silence, there will be a small table draped in black at the back of the sanctuary where people may leave their stones: leaving behind their worries; letting go of the weight; marking an encounter with God; and honoring Jesus in his time spent in the grave until Easter morning.

The liturgy is structured around Jesus’ last words, each reading followed by a short prayer, each prayer followed by silence, each silence ended with a song. Our music for the service uses a combination of classic hymns, spirituals, Taizé, and Iona pieces. We plan to make the musical accompaniment increasingly spare as the service progresses and as lights are extinguished. The length of the silences will also increase through the service.

At the end of the service, in near darkness, a solo voice will sing one verse of What Wondrous Love Is This.

An outline of the service, including the text of the prayers, and music suggestions follows:

Good Friday: A Service of Shadows and Stones

Gathering Words

One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the shadow of sin
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see the weight of the world
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the suffering of our Savior.
One: All you who pass this way
Many: Look and see, the sorrow of Jesus Christ
One: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
(based on Lamentations 1:12)

Song: Go to Dark Gethsemane

Shadow of Condemnation

Reading: Luke 23:32-34

Prayer:
Forgiving Christ,
when the world condemns us, when wrong is done to us, when we carry the weight of things that are too much to forgive, come along side us in the darkness, and give us the grace to be forgiven and forgiving.

(Silence)

Song: Before the World Began (John Bell, Wild Goose Resource Group)

Shadow of Separation

Reading: Luke 23:35-43

Prayer:
Reconciling Christ,
we are weighed down by sin and separation, a world that is not at peace, people who are not whole. You reached out to the thief, you welcomed him to God’s side. Come alongside us in the darkness, and bring grace and peace to everything that is broken.

(Silence)

Song: Jesus, Remember Me (Jacques Berthier, Les Presses de Taizé)

Shadow of Sorrow

Reading: John 19:25-27

Prayer:
Loving Jesus,
we carry the weight of the people we love, concern for their sorrows and suffering. Our care for them is deep, and sometimes there is not much we can do. Come alongside us in the darkness, and cradle the ones we love in your strong hands.

(Silence)

Song: Ah, Holy Jesus

Shadow of Despair

Reading: Mark 5:33-34

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you know what it is to feel that God is far away. You know what it is to call out for God’s presence. Come alongside us in the darkness, and help us call out for God.

(Silence)

Song: Our Darkness (Jacques Berthier, Les Presses de Taizé)

Shadow of Suffering

Reading: John 19:28-30

Prayer:
Suffering Savior,
in all our thirst, in all our sickness, in all our longing, in all our pain, you are there. Come alongside us in the darkness, and walk with us through all our suffering.

(Silence)

Song: I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

Shadow of Death

Reading: Luke 23:44-49

Prayer:
Dearest Jesus,
even in death, you are there. When we mourn, when we are afraid, when we come to our own end, you have been there, too. Come alongside us in the darkness, and carry us through death to life.

(Silence)

Song: Oh, Brother Jesus (John Bell, Wild Goose Resource Group)

(Silence)

Solo: What Wondrous Love Is This

We leave in silence

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Comments

  1. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I was thinking of Jesus’s words on the road to Jerusalem… if these are silent, even the stones will cry out. Thanks for giving voice to the stones.

  3. Oh, I like this a great deal – hear the music as I read. Really appreciate how the music conveys the texts/images and engages/embodies the movement. Am doing some work in the area of worship music and religious education so really key in to this stuff these days. Thank you. am adding this service to the reflection work I am doing for my practicum. Blessings on your ministry.

  4. Just reading this gave me chills – what great images and prayers all woven together. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Shannon Kershner says:

    This is a beautiful and powerful service. But I had to admit that my favorite part of the whole thing is your endnote of thanks to your colleagues, your husband, and your parents who care for your small child. It is just nice to know that other clergywomen live similar lives to mine. Thank you!

  6. I’m in my second yr of seminary, have a one year old, and am working in a church this year on top of classes. For the first time in many years, I didn’t feel like I had celebrated Christ during Holy Week and Easter. Now, I feel that I have. Thank you for the beautiful service.

  7. This is a fantastic ligurgy! Our theme for Lent 2009 is “A Journey of Stones.” Everything about worship (scriptures, music, messages, etc.) has been tied to our human propensity to throw stones at one another and what it takes to be willing to put down our stones and walk away.
    This Good Friday liturgy will SO work with my congregation and their needs. I’m going to modify it a bit to include in each “Shadow” section a responsive prayer, something to the effect of:
    “If the stone in your hand represents this shadow, may you…”

  8. I’m really liking this service and am making only minor adaptations to it for use this next week. There seems to be one error in it, though: the “Shadow of Despair” reading should probably use Mark 15:33-34 rather than Mark 5…

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