A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: PREPARING FOR THIS HOLIEST OF WEEKS
Friends, as you are reading this, we are already into Holy Week, with our Maundy Thursday service having taken place last night. Tonight marks the next step in our Holy Week journey with the Good Friday Tenebrae service, and so I want to talk about that service and our services on Easter, because they will each require some advanced preparation.
First, the word “Tenebrae” means, literally, “darkness” in Latin, and that is why the service is at 8 p.m., so it takes place after sunset. The service begins in lower light than normal, and proceeds through a series of Scripture readings telling the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, death, and burial. Each reading concludes with the extinguishing of candles, thus increasing the darkness. The service ends in total darkness, symbolizing Christ’s death and burial on Good Friday.
So I encourage you to prepare by participating in the service in a room in relatively low light, and perhaps even arranging for candles that you could extinguish in your home along with the service (you would need seven candles for the readings).
On Easter, we are offering two services that are very different from one another: what they have in common is that they will both include Communion, so you will need bread and wine/juice, or whatever you can get that is closest to those two elements.
The 9 a.m. service is, as usual, a contemporary-style service, but on Easter it will also be an in-person, outdoor service, so we urge you to sign up in advance on this short online form (bit.ly/3wb6vEo) or leave a message at 610-867-5865, so we know you will be attending. If you attend in person, you will be provided with a bulletin but you will need to bring your own communion elements and chair.
Regardless of your vaccination status, you will be required throughout the service to wear a mask and maintain a minimum of six feet of physical distance from anyone outside your own household. The only exception to this is during Communion; at that point, you may remove your mask, consume the bread and wine/juice that you have brought with you, and then immediately replace your mask.
We are excited to be able to offer an in-person worship experience on Easter, but I want to point out that this is because of the extreme dedication and hard work of our music and audio-visual staff, some of whom will be arriving at the church to set up the worship space even earlier than the women in the Easter story arrived at Jesus’ tomb! So please express your thanks and support to them on Sunday.
I hope you also saw the news that we will be sharing the 9 a.m. service via an FM transmission, so you can come park in the church building parking lot and tune into 88.9FM to listen to the service at 9 a.m.
The 11 a.m. Easter service will be traditional in style, as usual, but will be digital-only and accessible from Facebook Live or the church website. Unfortunately, traditional music translates poorly to an outdoor setting, and so we can actually offer a better worship experience for Easter online than we can outdoors. Again, you will need communion elements available for this service.
After the Traditional Service we will gather via Zoom (bit.ly/3wg9E5Q) for a Hospitality Time. I hope you will join us as we gather in fellowship. (If you are listening to the service on Zoom, just stay on the line for Hospitality Time.)
Please also check out the worship and fellowship opportunities on Holy Saturday, as well, with a children’s Easter Egg Hunt at 10 a.m. (in person, on our church grounds) and the Compline contemplative prayer service at 7 p.m., via Facebook Live and on our website. But neither of those requires advanced preparation (except perhaps for finding an Easter basket for the egg hunt!).
I look forward to being with you throughout this holiest of weeks for Christians, and I hope you will be a part of as much of our observances as you can.
Grace and Peace,