Monday, April 09, 2012

Holy Week High and Sigh

What a week!

Thank you, Lord, for your presence poured out among us...for each one playing his part...for renewal of faith and purpose...that we saw You glorified in our midst.

It was quite a week.  (That was the sigh.)

One of the highs was seeing the way we need everyone in our congregation.  The spiritual gifts that were poured out were all so different and all so needed!  It was such a great example of the Corinthians passage in action.  Thank heavens we are not all noses...or hands...or elbows!  For example, two women took care of providing snacks and meals for musicians, tech crew, coordinators and others who were at the church all day for several days, plus assorted children.  One cooked, baked and grocery-shopped, the other opened her home, served (lots of kids) and cleaned up afterward--and each woman thought the other one had the harder job.

We had servant types running errands and pitching in wherever. We had administrative types with clipboards, checklists and oh-so-helpful reminders.  We had musicians who were also arranging flowers, rigging up scrims and lighting, running sound, and creating visual effects with light.  Even the kids were needed, serving as acolytes, readers, dancers and singers.  The sound and light crew relied heavily on two boys--including B16--who volunteered their time for three days straight.

It was truly a whole-church effort, and what better thing to get the whole church involved in than a celebration of Christ's Passion and resurrection!  One of the things I love about our Anglican tradition is how Easter is absolutely the pinnacle of the church year, way more exciting and a much bigger deal than Christmas.  I'm so glad my kids are growing up with this sense.

And without a doubt, Easter Vigil is the best, the favorite service of the whole year!

On the way into the chapel, everyone passes the Holy Fire, from which our Paschal Candle is lit. (Which happens after last year's candle is melted in the fire, which is what they are doing in the picture above.  I never knew this before!)

The service begins in darkness, with the sound of loud knocking on the wooden doors.  The procession enters with incense, then the candle is lit and processed to the front while Father Rooster sings an ancient hymn, the Exsultet.

From that one light, many lights are lit.

The little boy lit up in front (center right) is B7. Go ahead and click to enlarge.
Then we settle in for a recounting of salvation history through nine Scripture readings, beginning with Creation.

Chicklet9 read Day 3, the green banner shown, which B13 raised.
We used the seven banners that I made last year for the seven days. Seven children hid behind the rood screen and raised them as seven other children read the description of God's work on each day.

For the Flood, I recounted the tale from Genesis, while our percussionist created a "soundscape" to auditorily illustrate the text.  I got to help, adding a rain stick at appropriate times.

The Abraham and Isaac reading, shadow-acted by a father and son, was one of the most powerful recountings.

The Red Sea text was read by three women, accompanied by three men/young men on percussion.  B16 enjoyed learning this new skill!  With expressive readers and three drummers drumming the chaos of the Egyptian chase, this was the noisiest and most exciting reading.

B13 is the dark-haired acolyte in front.
The pace slowed down with the peaceful "God's Presence in a Renewed Israel."

Salvation Offered Freely to All was a song, an original composition by the worship minister at our old church, which puts the Isaiah text to music.  The memorable refrain, "Come to the waters, come" was sung in 4-part harmony by Papa Rooster, his brother and two other men.

Two young ballerinas danced the parts of God (in white) and Israel (in lavender) to "Lark Ascending" played by our own professional violinist.  The red scarf symbolized the heart of flesh; the white scarf, a new spirit.  The dancers' mothers came up with the touching choreography.  It was a favorite last year and again this year.

For the Dry Bones reading, one of our men assembled his own version of the text by pulling from various editions and creating a reading that was in his own voice and style, as if the prophet Ezekiel's weird experience had just happened to him.

For the final Gathering reading, four readers (including me and B13, both on the right) began at the four corners of the sanctuary and gathered in the center aisle, before processing to the front to finish the reading. I had not realized until I saw this picture that we were all nearly the same height! What unplanned symmetry.

Next was the renewal of baptismal vows.  Usually when we have baptisms, the clergy fling the leftover holy water into the congregation, and thought there were no baptisms this year, they went ahead and doused the crowd...

...and each other!

You have to rermember that these two were once college roommates!
 After a ten-minute Resurrection homily, it's time for the Easter Acclamation:  "The Lord is risen.  He is risen indeed.  ALLELUIA!"  On that word, the lights come up, the flowers come out to surround the altar, and the Holy Noise ensues.

That would be the ringing of bells, the shouting of Alleluia!, drumming, and general woot-woot-ing.

Oh, and four Alleluia banners drop, but the one in the picture above was the one that had difficulties (i.e. the chain stitch didn't unravel properly and when it was jerked on, the top pole turned sideways). It was the first time in 3 years that they haven't all come down beautifully.  This year will be remembered for technical glitches of all sorts, but it didn't matter--it was still a glorious service!

We celebrated the first Eucharist of Easter...

..with songs of celebration...

...and dancing in the aisles!

That's it for the photos--taken by Papa Rooster's friend Mike H., from another congregation who offered his gifts to our church for this night.

But the celebration continues in our hearts and in our grateful thanksgiving for all Christ has done for our salvation and in our midst!


Amy said...

What a beautiful service. THanks for taking the time to post pictures of all your church has done for Holy Week. It's been very encouraging to us. We are in the midst of starting an Anglican church here in the Philadelphia area and your church provides great hope for us!

Easter blessings,

At A Hen's Pace said...


WOW! That is exciting! What is the name of your church? ACNA, AMIA or other? We wish you God's blessing on your efforts!


Annie said...

Jeanne, Wow! Lovely. Our little church has just done its second Easter Vigil service, and it was characterized by great beauty (the liturgy, the Exulsetm the Paschal candle) but we have a ways to go in embracing it as our own. Thanks for your witness.

Amy said...

Christ Church Anglican on the Philadelphia Main Line! We are under Bishop Dobbs in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America and the Anglican Church in North America. Please pray for us!!!!

At A Hen's Pace said...


That's exciting to have your second Vigil! Yes, making it your own...embracing what unique gifts and culture you already have and going from there. Saying a prayer now for your congregation!


And for yours!! How wonderful!!!