What makes a good Good Friday?

The answers will be varied:

  • Hot cross buns (good quality, not cheap ones) toasted and served with butter
  • A bit of sunshine especially if doing an outdoors walk of witness or service
  • Time and space to ponder the mystery of what happened that day 2,000+ years ago
  • You may have other answers. I have another one, which I will share later…..

Yesterday was Good Friday 2022, and was different from those I have had in the past in various ways.

My Good Fridays have varied over the years. But for the last 30 odd years it has been a day when I always make sure I have 3 hours of devotions from noon till 3. This habit was formed during my days prior to ordination. As a new Christian I attended an Anglo Catholic Church and Good Friday started at noon with a short service, then I think we had communion from the reserved sacrament and there was something called the veneration of the cross (which I found difficult) plus various reflections etc. I think we also had a family/children’s service at 2.30-3pm followed by hot cross buns. Memory is vague on those details. But I do have happy memories of the Saturday. We would gather again, with our children, to put flowers in small pots to decorate the Easter Garden.

When I moved to my previous parish I discovered that their practice had been different. They held a service in the town centre at 11am along with Christians from other churches. So my 3 hours extended to 4 as I insisted that we have the church open and put on something more devotional for Christians.

My current situation is different again – no surprises. I have 4 churches and although one of them doesn’t do anything on Good Friday (and I am not about to introduce it) the last 2 years have been hit by Covid. That means I have only had one normal Holy Week here. And sadly since I arrived the local Methodist Chapel has closed so any plans I had of building on the relationship between them and the Anglican Church in the village are scuppered.

The break of 2 years has meant that I could encourage people to try something different – helped along by our curate and a newly licensed Reader.

Yesterday we held our first Walk of Witness. We started in church at Rocester at 10.30am, walked through the village, taking the longer route to Denstone, via Stubwood, arriving in Denstone church at about 12.30pm. We stopped at various points using some short reflections and the One Friday booklets. We sang some hymns too, including one outside the closed Stubwood Methodist Chapel. Some people joined us along the route.

There were a few people already at Denstone church awaiting us and joined in the final reflection and hymn from the One Friday. The images and text were displayed around the church as they had held a Stations of the Cross using them on Monday.

I had taken a few resources with me to lead whoever was there in some devotions. I had had no idea who would turn up or how long they would stay. The walkers left (except one) after the first of a series of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

We reflected on a word from the cross and then sang a hymn that we felt was appropriate. Thanks to sufficient 4G signal, phone and sound box we were able to be led by the Spirit. We finished at about 2pm with Blessed Assurance. The journey of reflecting was most uplifting and we ended on a high note of praise for Jesus who had died for us.

In the past when leading this sort of thing I would have a carefully timed programme of readings and hymns set out so that we would finish at the time planned. Not so yesterday. All but one person left after we finished. This felt right. There was nothing more we could ponder. We had thought and prayed about Jesus’ death and once more.

By 2.3pm I was alone in the church and left to my own quiet time of prayer. I ate the banana I’d brought with me – breakfast was long since past and although I would normally fast between breakfast and 3pm when hot cross buns would be consumed, I had got to walk back to Rocester (about a mile).

I kept the church open till 3 as per the advert, but nobody came. So I took down the One Friday images, stacking them neatly, ready for the ladies to come into church today and decorate for Easter. So my 3 hours had extended to 5 hours if you include the walk back home, which was prayerful (4.5 hours if you want to be nit picking). I had to do some last minute preparation to ensure services are ready for Sunday but not much else.

Reflecting upon yesterday I have another item for the list of what makes for a good Good Friday: Not having to finish writing a sermon for Easter Day.

I have been able to stay with the events that led up to Jesus’ death, and to not rush on to the resurrection. There haven’t been many years when I have not had an Easter Day sermon to prepare. And as I am also very tired from a very busy 3 weeks – today is my first full day off for 3 weeks. I really hope that nobody comes knocking on the vicarage door today (not very Christian I know).

This morning I was able to catch up with my art and prayer journal page that I’ve been doing this week. I’m using Paula Gooder’s book, Women of Holy Week.

Holy Week. Work in progress

My prayers have also been aided by a hymn that is new to me, shared by someone on Facebook.

1. O Love divine, what has thou done! 
The immortal God hath died for me! 
The Father’s coeternal Son 
bore all my sins upon the tree. 
The immortal God hath died for me!
My Lord, my Love, is crucified! 

2. Is crucified for me and you, 
to bring us rebels back to God. 
Believe, believe the record true, 
ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood. 
Pardon for all flows from his side: 
My Lord, my Love, is crucified! 

3. Behold him, all ye that pass by,
the bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Savior die,
and say, “Was ever grief like his?”
Come, feel with me his blood applied:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

And here’s a group singing it: https://youtu.be/D2_NOjEYIR4

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this. I will probably do a bit more of my picture later today in my prayer time. But for now, the sun is shining, my husband is due back home soon, but will be writing his Easter Day sermon. So I will have the rest of the day to myself. A walk by the river is in order I think, as well as a trip to Tesco.

PS …. just added a bit to an earlier paragraph about preparing for Sunday. …. Oh bother, just remembered I didn’t do a last minute check of the PowerPoint for one of the churches – so much for rejoicing in a full day off…. Just going to post this then will do the checking.

Oh – yes…. PPS….. have a wonderfully blessed Easter.

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