Improvisational Liturgy for Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday 2020
A note from Dean Kittredge:
Dear Community of Southwest:
The pandemic has made gathering in groups for worship impossible this year.
Members of the seminary community and friends in the ecumenical Christian community in Austin have a powerful longing to celebrate in a corporate way the holy days that are the origin of our faith.
What have we experienced as life giving during these days of lockdown, disappointment, uncertainty, and fear?
Being outside (the virus is not carried by mosquitos are in air or sunlight), physically moving, exercising human creativity that reflects the creativity of God, making art (akin to liturgy), and giving thanks for simple gifts.
The basic elements of liturgy are time, space, people, and elements like bread, wine, water, oil. In the Triduum sacred time is primary. The Triduum enacts death, burial, and resurrection. Scriptural accounts of the passion highlight time – sabbath, evening, morning, place – particularly the tomb, (whether in a garden or not).
The Mott is a sacred space on the seminary campus. It has taken on new poignancy and urgency as the buildings, including the chapel, are closed. People spontaneously gather there even if they stay ten feet distant from one another.
My proposal for a liturgical observance of the Triduum is minimalist, employing time, space, people, and one element. Traditional elements of Episcopal liturgy are absent – besides the people congregating close together, what is most absent are words, lots of words. (It is difficult to share words when physically far away from one another.) On the original days that became commemorated on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, there were likely no large gatherings and quite probably, few words.
On Friday and all day on Saturday, people come to the Mott. Individually they bring a stone that they have chosen, washed (as the altar is washed at the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy) to a designated place in the Mott. They put the stone there and leave, offering whatever prayers or actions or songs or silence that they wish. Single visits to the place continue over the period of days until there is a pile of stones. A tomb. A grave. A tower. A temple. Then beginning at before dawn on Sunday morning, people return and take away a stone, one by one. When the sun is high, the grave is empty, the tower is gone, and the temple is the community of the risen Christ.
We have enacted the paschal mystery together as a body without congregating.
This liturgy will come into being by doing it. Its meaning and resonance will be revealed in the performing. It is unlikely to be repeated.
The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President
P.S.- Please see below this short video of me in the Mott describing this proposal: