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Good Friday

By Elaine Bardwell - Posted on 06 April 2012

 We return to church on Good Friday morning. The keynote of this day is a beautiful simplicity. It is silent and serious but not unremittingly sombre - this is Good Friday after all and not Black Friday or Grim Friday because we remember Jesus saving the world on this day.
It is customary in many places to spend the three hours from noon to 3 in the afternoon in worship today. This takes different forms in different churches. For us at New Marston we begin with an Ecumenical outdoor gathering. All the local churches (which inlcudes members from the local Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Reformed Church and independent Evangelical congregations) make their way to a central meeting point near some local shops. There we make a large gathering with crosses on prominent display and sing, pray and reflect together on the themes of suffering, Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross made to bring us a direct participation in the Love and Life of God and the knowledge of true forgiveness for all our sins. This is never a superficial nod towards Christian Unity but a deep meditation on the central feature which truly holds us together as brothers and sisters in Christ - the Cross. The format varies a bit each time but reading from Scripture and some sort of sermon as well as hymns or songs always feature in the mix. Afterwards we take time to greet friends across denominational boundaries and wish one another the joys of Easter. Some have already held services in church and some of us now make our way back to church to carry on what we have begun.
At St Michael's we take our time to arrive, make sure everything is in place and then we gather all those present beginning with the clergy processing in, in silence, and then prostrating ourselves fully on the floor before the large cross which is the centrepiece in the church building today. This act of humility is a mixture of prayer for forgiveness and also a sign of genuine and profound gratitiude to Jesus who laid down his life for us. This is a deep paradox - he died that we might live - and words alone are not adequate to express this. We now play something (we do have a paid licence to do so) suitable to aid our meditation period. There are a number of resources around the building and each one of us is simply free to sit, wander, ponder and pray. The Stations of the Cross are provided, Bibles with suggested passages from Isaiah and St John's Gospel, the Solemn Prayers (an ancient devotion going back to the early Christians) are provided, places to kneel or sit around the central Cross, prayer stations with visual displays to get us thinking, a slide show on a computer taking us through a sequence of images and poetry or places to just sit and pray. Sometimes part of this time is led by one or more of us with reflections on Stations of the Cross or a sequence of Scriptural passages.
When we have all made our way back to the middle of the Nave we are ready to sing a hymn and in turn we reverence the central Cross in whatever way we find appropriate as we move into the sanctuary and stand together around the High Altar for a simple ceremony for receiving Holy Communion. We use the elements we reserved from yesterday evening's celebration. Not everyone receives on this day. Some Christians argue that on this day especially we should receive the Body and Blood of Christ - his last Will and Testament. Others say it is just as appropriate to remember the reality of his death, his absence from the disciples and so refrain from receiving Communion. We are following a well established custom of receiving but not celebrating a full Eucharist. All the consecrated elements are now consumed and we leave in silence, still part way through our 3 day liturgy. A period of waiting now begins.
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