By Rev. Dorothy S. Boulware, Special to the AFRO
Good Friday is the day Christians gather to corporately commemorate the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross to seal humankind’s redemption in God’s eternal plan. And gather they do in all corners of the world, noon to three o’clock, with worship, word and prayer.
“Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn’t climb all the way up to God. So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday, God climbed down to us, became one with us,” theologian William H. Willimon wrote in his book, Thank God It’s Friday. “The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday.”
So in most denominations there is some gathering on Good Friday, following the Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday service marking the giving of the commandment to love one another. At the end of the service that can involve foot washing, the altars are cleared of all decorative array and all is bared to prepare the sanctuary to represent the stark reality of Good Friday.
“The corporate observance allows us to share in a real way the meaning of Good Friday, i.e. the love of God that transcends all reason and took him to self-sacrifice on an old rugged cross. The community observance gives us shared time to reflect on, react to, and re-embrace the awe-inspiring grace of God that reaches out from Calvary in a way that we can scarcely apprehend,” said the Rev. Dr. Bertha Borum, pastor emeritus, St. John’s Transformation Baptist Church. “The world offers no observance that causes us to pause and take this all in. Only our corporate celebrations give us an experiential reminder of the depths of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us. It quickens our faith and helps us to soldier on with renewed determination individually and as a community of faith.”
And the Rev. Clarinda Burston, pastor of Miracle Church of Baltimore, said we need it now more than ever before.
“The observance of Good Friday helps us to never forget the series of events that led up to the resurrection,” Rev. Burston said. “Within the spectrum of present day societal differences we must remain true and committed to what we believe and express that belief openly without apologizing. Good Friday observance helps us to do just that.”
Aside from the preaching of the seven last sayings of Jesus, not much has escaped iteration and cultural update, including the length of the service. As women have gained more liberty in ministry, they have emerged from signature preachers to filling the entire pulpit roster of the day.
Young people who are still ministers in training are being scheduled by their pastors to engage the word at a time more suitable for them, midnight, and most of these services are totally filled.
When our grandparents went to church on Good Friday morning, there was no expectation of returning before the dinner hour, and everyone in the household was mandated to attend.
But the all-day service has morphed into a one-hour express Calvary experience, some early in the morning, others in the evening. And yes, in most cities, services can be found throughout the day.
The day traditionally ends with a fish dinner supplied by the host church with all the accoutrements sure to crash the Lenten fast.
Some of the Baltimore services:
*First Apostolic Faith Church of Jesus Christ. 27 S. Caroline Street. 21231. 7 pm. – 7 Women 7 Words
*Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church. 3016 Park Heights Ave. 12 noon
*Greater Harvest Baptist Church. 1617 W. Saratoga Street. 21223. 8:30 a.m.
*New Shiloh Baptist Church. 2100 W. Monroe Street. 21217. 12 noon
*St. John AME Church. 810 N. Carrollton Avenue. 21217 – 7 Women 7 Words
*Shiloh Christian Community Church. 825 Yale Avenue. 21229. 7 p.m.