• Iain McLarty

Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 22

Hebrews 10:16-25

John 18:1-19:42


You can find a YouTube playlist here with many of the songs suggested below.



Gathering


The Gospel reading will no doubt be central to your service and one way to begin could be with a call to a time of prayer, just as Jesus tells his disciples to “watch and pray” in the synoptic Gospels, just before we pick up the story with Judas arriving. The beautiful Watch and pray (link) would set an appropriately reflective tone, as would the short chants Stay with me (CH 793 / Taizé), Jesu tawa pano / Jesus we are here (CH 773) or Be still and know that I am God (CH 755 / MP 48). Alternatively you could pick up on language from the Old Testament and Epistle with songs like Exalt the Lord our God (Satellite) or Here I Am To Worship (MP 1086 / CCLI). For a more general song there are lots of well known options which fit well such as My song is love unknown (CH 399 / MP 478), Meekness and majesty (CH 356 / MP 465), Praise to the holiest in the height (CH 378 / MP 563) or Great are you Lord (CCLI).



Word


It’s hugely powerful to sing Psalm 22 on Good Friday but there is a big question for me as to whether it should be sung congregationally or by a solo voice given the content and context. For a solo voice the simple plainchant setting of My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (CH 12) can be very powerful while Psalm 22 (The Psalm Project) is a slightly jazzy setting whose two sections capture both the tenderness and the anguish of the text. For congregational involvement a responsive reading might be an easier way in such as the Scripted Reading (PFAS 22C) which uses the verses of What Wondrous Love Is This (CH 395) as a response or using the heart-wrenching Indonesian-Filipino chorus My God, why have you forsaken me (STB 274).



Response


There are a huge number of songs appropriate for Good Friday so on the assumption that you won’t be short of options well known to your congregation I’m going to highlight a few which are probably less familiar.


The Reproaches (CH 379) are a common part of Roman Catholic services on Good Friday but less familiar in other traditions and this setting has an easy response for the congregation which makes them very accessible, while the Contemporary Reproaches (WGRG) are a reimagining of these.


There are a range of contemporary hymns which use different lenses to look at the Good Friday story. Here hangs a man discarded (CH 385) asks about it’s relevance today and has some wonderfully evocative wordplay. O Christ you hang upon a cross (Hope) looks at the suffering and injustice which still exists today and uses the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) as a response to that. Tree of life and awesome mystery (CH 401) explores how we can use Christ’s death and rebirth as a model that we need to “learn to live” while We do not hope to ease our minds (CH 537) speaks of the need to stand with Christ “till Easter morning dawns again” and is set to a Scottish folk tune with an appropriately mournful ending.


A lot of contemporary worship songs have a more personal response and an explicit focus on Christ dying for our sin. The power of the cross (MP 1217 / CCLI / Getty) and Yet not I but through Christ in me (CCLI) are two more popular options while What kind of King (Resound) is a less well known song well worth exploring, with a 7/4 time which gives a distinctive feel and space for contemplating each line.


Finally, there are a number of songs from around the world worth exploring. So much wrong and so much injustice (CH 572) is a beautiful song from the Middle East which reflects on the deep heartfelt loss of Good Friday, Why has God forsaken me? (CH 388) explores what we can take from these words Jesus cried out on the cross and is set to a haunting tune from Japan, while Behold the holy Lamb of God (CH 389) is a call and response from Malawi.



Sending


You will probably want to finish your service with a contemplative hymn and then leave in silence and particularly at a moment with such heightened emotion it can be important to use a “heartsong”, a song known and loved by your congregation and which they can carry with them as they leave. When I survey the wondrous cross (CH 392 / MP 755 / MP 1126) would be a classic for this moment, or a contemporary version of this such as the “Celtic version” (MP 1126), the version by Tim Hughes (CCLI) or The wonderful cross (CCLI). O Sacred Head sore wounded (CH 382) is another option for congregations with a strong hymn tradition and a Bach chorale is always a strong way to finish while How deep the Father’s love for us (CH 549 / MP 988 / Townend) is an alternative contemporary hymn. If your congregation know it well then an a cappella version of What Wondrous Love Is This (CH 395) could be very powerful while a stripped back version of This is amazing grace (CCLI) could also be very effective.


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