With Easter about a month away, it occurred to me that some of you may be putting together plans for Holy Week celebrations, and be looking for ideas. This is a set of worship stations using the Sensate Pathway to explore the Seven Last Words of Jesus that I have organized in previous years at The Well. Perhaps it will inspire your own creativity! (I will include a downloadable plan with more detail at the end of the post as well.)
Each station has a short written meditation to read, plus an activity for the participant to do. These can be set up virtually anywhere: the first time we did them was in the large back room of a café, the second time around the various rooms of our office. Just make sure that there is a distinct path for people to follow, possibly with guides at each station. We made this experience a “drop-in” one, so that people would go through the stations as they showed up – an advantage when you want participants to follow a particular order and don’t want a bottleneck.
Pay attention to the general mood of the lighting, and use evocative background music. (Last time, I used the soundtrack from The Passion of the Christ.) You can also project a video of the last sayings with subtitles on a wall as a backdrop to the whole experience.
Here are the stations, which should be followed in this order:
1. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” The central idea of this station is confession. As well as the written meditation on this saying, participants will find markers and strips of cloth bandages. They should write on a bandage some things that they want to confess and be forgiven for, and bind it around their hand or arm to wear as they follow the stations.
2. “I tell you the truth; today you will be with me in Paradise.” These are strong words of absolution following on from the first station. Participants can put on headphones here and watch a video of the song “Thief” by Third Day, which puts them in the place of the thief on the cross.
3. “Dear woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.” At this station, participants meditate on the Family they have been given through Christ, and write a note of thanks for it on a heart-shaped Post-It. Small thank-you notes are also provided on which to write appreciation for a “mother” or “brother” in Christ that can be given to these people later.
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Here, participants meditate in silence and darkness on the isolation of Jesus in being forsaken by the Father. To create this silence and darkness, you can either have a separate room (we used the shower room in our office!) or a tent set up and covered over with heavy comforters or duvets to create darkness. Participants may also have the means to respond to this by writing their reactions in white marker on a large black piece of paper.
5. “I am thirsty.” This station offers participants small communion cups filled with red wine vinegar to quench their thirst. You can make this even more intense by offering them a mouth-drying snack first, such as saltines, or biscottes, or small pieces of dry Weetabix. This meditation takes in just a small part of the physical suffering of Jesus, but it is a surprisingly visceral experience, and the station that people have remembered best… sometimes years later.
6. “It is finished!” A cross greets participants at this station, on which they can “nail their sins.” They now remove the bandage they have been wearing and put it in an envelope with they stamp with a PAID ink stamp. Then they attach this to the cross, using a real hammer and nails if you like, or pushpins if you want less noise.
7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” This is an opportunity for participants to recognize their own adoption by the Father through exchanging their own shame for Jesus’ gift of righteousness. In place of the dirty bandage they nailed to the cross, they can take home with them a bright white handkerchief folded into the shape of a crown. (These should be placed around the foot of the cross.) They may also write their own expression of commitment to the Father, as a “living sacrifice” for him.
In addition to the seven stations, we have usually included also an art station, with various materials and a wall for displaying art, and a writing station, including materials for journalling, poetry, and letters. These help the participants to extend and integrate their reflections, and may also be used when there is a “back-up” at one of the stations.
For more detailed instructions, please download the pdf Good Friday Worship Stations.
I hope this has inspired you for your own Good Friday planning! What are some ways you can think of to add to or improve these stations? How would you adapt them to your community and your space? (And those of you who have participated in these in past years, what was your experience with them?)
Categories: Creative Worship
Shannon – this is really interesting because we’re almost through this sermon series at my church in Fitchburg. Hope the move went well!
Bridget – Move is Saturday. It’s nuts around here!
Sermon series is on the Seven Last Words of Jesus?
I’ve never heard of anything like this. Thank you for sharing Shannon!
You’re welcome! I first encountered these kind of worship stations about ten years ago and they were very meaningful to me. I have been creating them myself several times a year for our community since then.
Thanks so much Shannon. Some very moving ideas. We will surely use a few at Easter.