Sunday, April 07, 2013

Easter Vigil 2013

Once again, the Easter Vigil was the highlight of our church year!

The service always begins in darkness, as one candle, the Light of Christ, is processed to the front. Papa Rooster sings the Exsultet, a beautiful chant extolling "this most marvelous and holy flame." His rich tenor voice is perfectly suited for it.

The light spreads from the one candle to many. 

This year, in a different rented location, for a post-daylight-savings-time Vigil, we weren't able to cover the windows as we would have liked to for a little more darkness. Still, candlelight creates its own atmosphere.

Then the congregation is seated and we begin to recount salvation history through a series of Old Testament readings, beginning with the Creation.

This is the father of one of our parishioners, who's from another state. He's been performing James Weldon Johnson's "The Creation" for many years. He was brilliant! Every child in the place was riveted by this man's storytelling ability. (One of them asked him at The Peace if he would please tell him another story!) 

There may have been another reason the kids were all transfixed, though. After the ending, B8 turned to me with eyes wide and asked, "Who WAS that guy?" (The kids had never laid eyes on him before, and since he started out at the very back of the church, I think they might have thought he just wandered in off the street!)

(Because this wasn't a direct quotation from Scripture, instead of beginning with "A reading from the book of Genesis" he began, "A rhapsody...inspired by the book of Genesis." I loved that! At the end, instead of "The Word of the Lord," he said, "Here ends the reading." Inquiring liturgical minds will be glad to know.)

The next reading is the story of the Flood and the covenant God made with Noah and his descendants. I read the Genesis account while our percussionist, above (the son of the Creation reading guy, incidentally), performed a "soundscape" of rain, wind and water sounds, along with distinctive sounds for the birds, beasts, livestock, creeping things, and the rainbow.

As the story of Abraham and Isaac was read, a father and son acted it behind a scrim, with a strong light to project their shadows onto it. It's always such a powerful reading.

Our 13-and-14-year-olds recounted the escape of the Israelites at the Red Sea. (So thankful for that one young lady among all these young men; can you believe we have two other boys in this age group? It's our biggest "bubble" of kids the same age.)

The next reading, "Salvation Offered Freely to All," is from Isaiah 55:1-11. For this reading, these men sang "Come to the Waters" composed by our friend Steve Williamson at Church of the Resurrection. Papa Rooster got to sing it together with his brother and his dad--a treat for them and for all of us.  (The three of them are together on the left.)

The next reading is God's promise, from Ezekiel, to take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, to put a new spirit in us!

The next reading is also from Ezekiel, about the dry bones coming to life. Here B17 plays the prophet, while B14 plays the dry bones, which have just been rolled over by Ezekiel's foot, showing that they are "very dry." A tin whistle accompaniment provided "valley" atmosphere, a rattling sound and a wind sound.

The dry bones come to life and receive God's spirit. Their graves are opened and they are settled in their own land. "And you will know that I, the Lord, have done it." High five! between the brothers.

(Though I "directed" them, most of the good moments they came up with on their own, such as when the bones remain seated after the text says "and they stood on their feet." B17 cleared his throat and repeated the line, more loudly, before B14 suddenly heard him and jumped to his feet. B14 added a lot of funny facial expressions to the bones too. This is such a strange story that you just HAVE to milk the comic potential in it!)

The final reading (Zephaniah 3:14-20) was a song, "The Gathering of God's People," also composed by Steve Williamson. (You can watch and listen to it here.) This young lady, who has played many lead roles in musicals, is headed off to college next year to major in vocal performance. She read the scripture so expressively and joyfully sang the women's refrain:   "Sing, O daughter of Zion, shout aloud, O Israel; Rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem."

These kids sang the interweaving chorus, and the juxtaposition of their young pure voices with her mature one was so moving, as they sang repeatedly, "Fear not, O Israel, the Lord is on your side; a mighty one who will save you."

After the Old Testament readings, we always renew our baptismal vows as a congregation, a powerful moment of affirmation of belief. Then my brother-in-law sang the Don Francisco song, "He's Alive!" and just before the chorus, Father Rooster shouted the Easter Acclamation, "Allelujah! Christ the Lord is risen!" and the congregation responded, "He is risen indeed! Alleluia!"

The processional cross is unveiled and lifted high by B14.

The whole congregation shouts, whistles and rings bells, while banners and potted flowers are brought forward to place around the altar. The drummer keeps going until the last of the flowers are brought out, and then we burst into a chorus of Alleluia, the song and word we've been leaving out of our liturgy all during Lent!

Then it's time for the New Testament reading, Romans 6:3-11. We've always done it as a straight reading, but this year, we tried it with three readers, speaking the words excitedly to each other and the whole congregation.

Next is the Gospel reading by our deacon, and then the sermon, which Father Rooster keeps very brief. Then we have communion and as soon as everyone has come forward, the dancing begins!

The kids always start us out. (That's my niece front and center, with Chicklet 10 behind her.)

It's more like joyful running in the aisles, to be honest. The kids look forward to this all year long!

Even the adults join in!

Well, some of us were dragged in. I blame that lady in front of me. She started it!

Her husband too! Here he is on the stage with Father Rooster and the acolytes before he jumped down and grabbed his daughter for a run in the aisles.

Meanwhile, Blondechick & Co. kept the music going...

...while B17 ran sound. The real sound guy is also our percussionist, so he's been teaching B17 and this other young man what to do while he plays. B17 gave up his whole spring break, practically, to be at every rehearsal and service for Holy Week. He's learning so much!

Another Easter Vigil successfully celebrated! If you did not read my previous post, I explained that it takes so many to pull it off...but it is the Holy Spirit himself who infuses that service with so much more than our human efforts--and so much joy!!


Photo credit--all photos by Andrew Barkules, 4/30/13

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