In the world in which we live today, going to church at all is a counter-cultural event. The idea that someone would go there every day of the week is so far beyond societal norms that people will look at you like you just dropped from Saturn if you would say such a thing out loud. It’s not just the culture either. Even church leaders are convinced that only the smallest minority will come back between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. That’s why we schizophrenically move from Palms to Passion on the Sunday before Easter. The thought is that if we don’t, only a handful of people are going to experience Good Friday.
But here’s the thing. Easter makes no sense without Good Friday. And the truth of the matter is that the days leading up to Resurrection are the most profoundly moving of the entire year. Not only is it an ancient tradition marking the events leading up to the death of Jesus, it is also the most important week of the year in our worship experience. Nothing says more about who we are than the services of Holy Week.
For those of you who have experienced Holy Week at GSP, you are well aware of what these days mean to us. But this year, Holy Week is more important than ever. This year we need Holy Week to bring us back to life in the midst of the challenges of the world around us.
Holy Week at GSP is both old and new. It is steeped in the ancient worship tradition of the church. But we have also created liturgies that we believe highlight what Jesus wanted us to remember the most about his last week on earth. Our goal is to create a worship experience that will be so moving that it will change you deep in your heart and bring each of you into a closer relationship with one another and with God. Here is the breakdown of services:
April 9, Palm Sunday, 7:45 & 10 a.m.
We will begin the services of Palm Sunday outside, waving our palms and commemorating the day when Jesus is jubilantly honored as he enters Jerusalem. At the 10 o’clock service, those who are able will process around the block. After processing into the church and continuing the celebration, the liturgy will make that very sudden turn to a narrative of the Passion Gospel. It is a stunning juxtaposition and a very emotional service.
April 10, 11 & 12,
Holy Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday
Each day leading up to the Triduum (the three days), we will have a special communion service. Each service will build upon the one before, leading us into the beauty and completeness of our Maundy Thursday service and what is to come on Good Friday. Monday’s service will be at Noon outdoors in the Memorial Garden. Tuesday’s service will be at 6 p.m. in the Julian Chapel in the church. After Tuesday evening’s communion service, there will be a special meditation service for Holy Week. Wednesday’s service will be at 7 a.m. in the Julian Chapel.
April 13, Maundy Thursday, 7 p.m.
Maundy comes from the latin word mandatum, where we get the word mandate. It refers to Jesus’s mandate to follow the “new commandment,” that we love one another. On this night we commemorate Jesus’s last night on earth, where I believe he put into one evening the essence of his entire earthly ministry. We will commemorate the last supper as well as Jesus’s act of foot washing, reminding each of us how we are to be servants to one another.
Our Maundy Thursday service will conclude with the stripping of the altar, symbolizing what will happen the following day. Our special service at GSP will include more symbols to capture the essence of our faith. This service is in my mind the most important worship experience of the year. I have seen it totally change people’s lives. If you must choose only one service to attend in Holy Week, this is the one I would personally pick.
Maundy Thursday night until
Good Friday Noon, Keeping Watch
Another ancient tradition is for individuals to “stay awake” in the stripped church in a contemplative fashion as Jesus asked of his disciples the night before he was killed. We honor this tradition at GSP with an all night Gospel reading. This year the readings will be of the Gospel of Matthew and John. The dramatic readings will include silence and soft music. You may come for any period of time during that night.
The Watch will end when the elements are consumed at the first service at Noon on Good Friday.
April 14, Good Friday
Noon, Stations of the Cross
The watch of Thursday night and Friday morning ends in Julian Chapel at Noon. The elements kept there will be consumed and then the participants will move to the labyrinth for a contemporary Stations of the Cross experience on the labyrinth. The practice of the stations is another ancient tradition. At GSP, we will reflect on the events of Good Friday from a liberation perspective. This service will include walking for those who are able. The service will last about 30 minutes.
5:30 p.m., The Way of the Cross
This service is a form of Stations of the Cross designed specifically for children. It will also be outside, weather permitting and will be less than 30 minutes.
7 p.m., Tenebrae Service
Our main Good Friday service will be one of the most moving you might ever experience. A service of Tenebrae is an ancient tradition, but one not utilized often. We will move from light to darkness, both metaphorically and physically as we travel through short Gospel readings describing the events of this fateful day, followed with a musical response to each reading. It is in my mind the most emotional service of the year and one that also changes people.
April 15, Holy Saturday
In the morning we will gather to physically prepare the church for the big day. Those who would like to assist our liturgical arts committee and altar guild in preparation are welcome to join us.
7 p.m., The Great Easter Vigil
This is the premier service in the Christian tradition. We begin in the darkness of the world, lighting a primordial fire and working our way through salvation history, suddenly bursting into the grandeur and wonder of Easter. The Vigil captures the length and breadth of Christianity and is a service everyone should experience sometime. In addition to the fire and some beautiful narration, we will have baptisms just like in the ancient church. Karen Hanson, Sharon McKenzie, and Dax Albert will be brought into the church in a moving moment that will inspire all of us. It is the most memorable service in the Christian calendar.
April 16, Easter Sunday, 7:45 & 10 a.m.
The day arrives. The full wonder, beauty and magnificence of the resurrection experience are captured in one service. An explosion of light and exquisite music at both services completes our journey to the ultimate joy of resurrection and celebration.
Following the worship, GSP hosts one of Tucson’s most fantastic celebratory parties. You won’t want to miss any of it.
April 23, Easter Two,
Annual Bishop Visitation, 7:45 & 10 a.m.
Don’t forget! The Sunday following Easter Day is just as celebratory. We will Receive and Confirm new members of the congregation and Bishop Smith will have a special presentation for us.
On Easter Sunday, April 16, Grace St. Paul’s will celebrate with a picnic feast after both festive services, and you’re invited! GSP will provide cold, spiral-sliced ham and water, iced tea, lemonade, and coffee. We’re asking people to bring cold side dishes, cold salads, and desserts. Help make this a picnic feast for all!
— By The Rev. Steve Keplinger, Rector