A print of a watercolor showing Trinity Lutheran Church in Astoria, NY
Due to recent changes in my job (*cough* unpaid vacation until April 27th, recession, blah blah blah *cough*, I was able to attend both Good Friday services at my church yesterday. The noon service was a bare bones service, no holy communion, the altar was bare, there was little music, and the cross was a chipped, wooden artifact that had seen many outdoor services when Trinity use to conduct those a generation ago. My fiancee and I were originally scheduled as lectors (she read from Isaiah, I read from Hebrews) but had, at first, thought we’d skip it and only attend the 7:30 service. However, things didn’t turn out the way we originally planned.
During the noon day service, we prayed for an interfaith reconciliation and prayed for an ecumenical reunion of the Church and of people of all faith. We pray for this quite frequently at our church. As a member of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), and part of the larger world body of the Lutheran Federation, and in communion with some Methodist and Presbyterian denominations, the ecumenical movement is something that we focus on quite a bit. Pentecost and the Unity of the Church is something that we seek which our denomination holds onto as not only a historic relic from Martin Luther’s original attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, but also as a fulfillment of the new commandment to not only love our neighbors as ourselves but also to love one another. It is sometimes easier to do the former than the later.
As a nice book end to that short intercessory prayer said during the noon service, Trinity participated as the Fourth Station of the Cross in Most Precious Blood’s annual parade. Most Precious Blood is our local Catholic Parish. They march down the road, music playing, close to 1000 members with candles and lights. They carry a statue of Mary, several of Jesus, and a glass coffin containing an image of Jesus’s dead body. We meet them at the front steps of our church. There’s roughly 30 of us compared to them but that’s how it is every year. I’ll have pictures of the event posted soon.
As the Fourth Station, our pastor reads a little bit about Mary, says a short prayer, and a hymn to Mary is sung by the procession. Mary isn’t typically part of our piety (though she’ll always be a part of mine – the Lady of Guadeloupe has had special reverence for me even when I wasn’t Christian) and the procession even asked before had if it was ok if a hymn to Mary was sung in front of Trinity. My pastor said of course it was. Before the prayer was said, several members joked whether the coffin would be brought into our church and paraded through. A member of our choir told us that had happened before and then related a story that is, in my mind, a sign of our previous noon day prayer.
She told the story of how our synod’s bishop came to worship at Trinity (or was installed at Trinity). The glass coffin was brought in to the church, marched through one side and out the other. While there, the Catholic procession saw the bishop in his vestments and immediately approached him and began to kiss his ring. It freaked the bishop out at first – this isn’t something Lutherans do. He tried to tell them that he wasn’t a Catholic bishop but they didn’t care. He was, for a moment at least, their bishop. Five hundred years of schism, countless wars, excommunication, strife, and theological distance between the two denominations were reconciled for a brief moment. And on that Good Friday, it’s compelling to see that even 2000 years after Joseph asked for Christ’s body, as Jesus is lifted on the cross, he still brings all to him.
Which totally reminds me that I still haven’t memorized the creeds like I said I was going to at the start of Lent. Sigh. Someday. Someday.