Friday, April 10, 2009

Vigil Watch

After the Maundy Thursday service, it is traditional in a lot of Episcopal Churches to do a vigil watch at the Altar of Repose from the end of the service until sunrise. This is not unlike the disciples at Gethsemane. Usually, there is a schedule for people to sign up for in hour increments, so people can come at some point in the night and sit and pray with Jesus on the night before Good Friday.

Apparently, it had been a few years since this was done at my current parish. I decided to restart the tradition, and had enough people so that there was always someone in the chapel until sunrise. A few people who signed up had never actually done it before, so I left on a music stand some devotional materials for people to read if they needed something.

After pondering what to put out, I decided to go with an Anglican theme, so all the works came from Anglican sources. Here's the list I came up with, which was apparently well received:

1. CS Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with the Death of Aslan chapter bookmarked with a sticky note. More than one person besides myself loved this one as its pretty easy to read in a relatively dark chapel. That and its a great Good Friday devotion in itself.

2. Copies of the Keeping the Holy Hour devotion in the old St. Augustine's Prayerbook, which was put out by the Anglican Order of Holy Cross. That is great for Vigil watches, as they are mediations on the Passion.

3. Another surprising hit was my collection of poems on the Passion by John Donne, an Anglican priest and poet of renown. Very Elizabethan, but for folks who like poetry, Donne is classic.

4. The Gospel of Mark, which can easily be read in an hour by most folks. Lots of action and my favorite Gospel.

5. Almost as an afterthought, I grabbed my copy of Desmond Tutu's God Has a Dream. There is a great chapter later in the book about "On Stillness and Hearing God's Voice." At least two people used this as a devotion as I found it in the pew in front of the altar when I arrived at 3:30 AM and found it again in the pew when I went back at 7:30 to close the watch. It's hard to not like Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town and instrumental in ending Apartheid in South Africa.

Like I said, I think they were all well received as reading material for a Vigil watch. See what you think...


Heidi said...

Good suggestions, Ryan. I'm saving them for next year.

Jane Ellen+ said...

One of my churches has a Good Friday Vigil each year, and I do the same-- laying out materials for devotional reading.

Your list is a good one, and I'll use a couple of those next year. Another resource I like is Fleming Rutledge's collection of meditations on The Seven Last Words from the Cross. She is a marvelous writer and preacher, one of my favorites.

Monk-in-Training said...

We do this every year, and since my oldest son was 16, I have done it.

Last night, or more properly this morning, the wind was blustering around the Church, but in the silent Parish 8 souls were gathered in the candle light at 1 am.