Here are two recordings of the Alto Aria Erbarme dich from J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, followed by a recording of the entire Passion, which in turn is followed by a recording of Bach’s St. John Passion. No words of description are needed. Just start listening, and you will be swept up in the Passion. The Aria in the first two recordings takes place as the cock has just crowed and Peter realizes that he has denied Jesus three times, as Jesus foretold.
The Maundy Thursday service is one of the most beautiful and moving of the entire year, right up there with Christmas Eve.
It is a joint service again this year in our sanctuary with our Grace United Methodist neighbors participating.
During the service we reflect on the last hours of Christ’s life with all its drama, emotion and meaning, and we partake in the Last Supper. We sing two beloved spirituals, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” and “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” The highpoint of the service is the Tenebrae, with nine readers at a table with thirteen candles representing Jesus and the twelve disciples. We hear the story read in stages as the candles are snuffed out until Jesus is alone in the darkness. The service ends with the one Christ candle relit as we pray and then depart in silence. It is a powerful way to enter the darkness and grief of Good Friday and prepare for the joy and brilliant light of Easter.
Started more than 50 years ago by organist Katrina Munn and her musical group of friends throughout the Upper Valley, the annual Palm Sunday Choir Festival has become a favorite event in the Bradford area. This year’s festival will be on March 20, at 7 p.m. Many area church choirs, groups, individuals and musicians come to sing anthems. The choirs join together for a combined presentation. This year it will include Mozart’s “Ave Verum” and Gaul’s “They That Sow in Tears.” The high point of the festival are the hymns, lifted up in glorious voice by more than 200 gifted singers, always ending with “All Hail the Power of Jesus’Name.” The festival is now the last of the six Sunday evening Lenten services sponsored by the Bradford Inter Church Council. The culmination of the evening this year will again be Organist John Atwood at the console.
Here are two books to consider as daily companions through the journey of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016)
The first is not only the best Lenten book I have ever seen, but one of the best books on the spiritual life. I have read and reread it for almost 20 Lents now, and get more out of it every time. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent by Martin L. Smith. Smith is an Episcopal priest and the former American head of the Anglican monastic order the Society of St. John the Divine, or the Cowley Fathers, based in Cambridge, MA. To see the Amazon description of the book, click here. (As always, we urge you to support your local bookstore!)
The second book is Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength, a new collection of writings by the UCC’s “stillspeaking writer’s group” which includes many gifted pastors and writers in the UCC. To see the UCC Resources description and order it, click here.