Good Friday and Easter Services: A Two Church Perspective

Normally I don’t focus on new church visits during major religious holidays as many present special programs atypical of week-to-week routines. Also, they’re flooded by throngs of once or twice-a-year attendees. Instead, at the conclusion of Holy Week, I attended Good Friday and Easter services at two churches which consistently show they are visitor-friendly. This blog post is intended to give a flavor of those services.

Good Friday
[img_assist|nid=140555|title=Golgotha|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=125|height=62]Trinity Presbyterian – Dark and Mysterious
Held in a side-chapel, this service in a darkened room began with each worshiper receiving a small candle upon entering. This candle was then lit and placed on one of two round tables with a single taller candle in the front of the chapel. The short services consisted of scripture readings (Mark 14-15), silent reflection, and prayer, punctuated by two songs: “Were You There?” and “Love is Here”. When the last reading indicating Jesus’ death was completed, the room was plunged into total darkness. Exiting in silence, we remained silent until out of the church. An impactual service, I felt the cold truth of the crucifixion as never before.

St. John United Methodist – Light to Dark
Hosted in the main sanctuary, this service followed the traditional Tenebrae Service [6th century] pattern of moving from light to darkness. A formal service consisting of 27 parts with unison readings, beautiful choral anthems with piano, string quartet and solo cello, hymns, scripture readings, and a brief homily by Pastor Dave Beckett. Altar items, cross, candles, etc., were gradually removed during the service, culminating with the draping of the altar in black. Ultimately the church was plunged into darkness. And in that darkness we sang Twila Paris’ beautiful contemporary hymn Lamb of God which brought tears to my eyes and those of others around me.

Lamb of God
(verse 3) I was so lost, I should have died, but you have brought me to your side, to be led by your staff and rod, and to be called a Lamb of God.
(chorus) O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God, I love the holy Lamb of God! O wash me in His precious blood, my Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

A most unique and moving experience, I was amazed the church was only half full, considering St. John is one of the largest Methodist churches in the Pacific Northwest.

Easter Sunday
[img_assist|nid=140556|title=Empty Tomb|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=100]St. John United Methodist – Bright and Joyous
Dodging snowshowers, worshipers in their Easter finery streamed into St. John to celebrate the resurrection. Overflowing services offered worshipers a feast of music accentuated by organ, piano, choir, and brass quartet. During the children’s time, shrieks of delight were heard when Pastor Dave Beckett pulled a rabbit out of a seemingly empty box, alluding to the empty tomb. Although the order of service was traditional Methodist, it was highlighted by Pastor Beckett’s upbeat Easter sermon, entitled “Happy News” which can be found here. This service ended on a high note with happy worshipers leaving St. John with hearts full.

Trinity Presbyterian – Warmly Celebrating
Warmly greeted by many of Trinity’s awesome welcoming team, I entered a church blazing with light and accentuated with countless baskets of tulips. The service started with a marvelous video, composed of black and white animation, depicting Jesus’ last days, death, burial and finally the resurrection, and accompanied by members of the band with an evocative oboe solo titled ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’. I still can’t shake the images from my mind. The praise band music, a blend of traditional and contemporary, was beautiful, appropriately setting the tone for the service.

Pastor Letts uses guided prayer to assist worshipers out of prayer ruts, suggesting ways to approach God. The pastoral message, “There’s a Place for Us”, used Lett’s inclusive style of inviting other members to share thoughts or readings. Lett’s use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was intriguing in that his selfless behavior earned him death at the hand of the Nazis, for speaking out against crimes against humanity, in the closing days of WWII in Germany. Better yet, why not listen to Lett’s Easter remarks here? The final song, ‘Who Paints the Sky’, a danceable toe-tapper, ended the service on a high note with the choir boogying out, tambourines in hand. The bell choir played music in the lobby as worshipers exited. A wonderful service, filled with happy memories.

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