Cue trapped in Trappe jokes.
For my Introduction to Liturgy course, our final examine consisted of a retreat. On a Saturday, those who were able gathered at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, PA. There, in the historic Lutheran church building built in 1743, we performed the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. All three, in a row, and on one day.
Okay, we didn’t do all there services exactly in a row. The class didn’t plow from one bulletin to the next. We had breaks. We ate lunch and dinner together. There were moments of downtime between the services. Dr. Lathrop wished for the entire day to be a retreat from the stress induced final moments of the spring semester. The idea was to do the three days on an Easter Saturday with every student having some part to play in the event.
We arrived at Augustus Lutheran Church a little after 11 o’clock. On the way through town, pass the odd UCC church sign, I kept making comments about Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and his being a patron of local fast food restaurants (specifically Dairy Queen). It only seemed right that since Muhlenberg’s house had a historical marker dedicated to it, his favorite ice cream dessert should too. The entire class gathered in one of the community halls attached to the newer church building. A lunch was prepared for a small army. I believe there is still salad from that day sitting in the communal fridge on the 3rd floor of LTSP’s dorm.
Prepping for Maundy Thursday
After feeding myself to the point of bursting, I wandered with several other students into the Old Church. Built in 1743 and with its only electricity being fed into it via huge extension chords, I watched as Dr. Lathrop, Dr. Krentz, and my classmates began to run through how the Maundy Thursday service would work. From the monster pulpit, the tiny box pews (that were too small for even me), and the bleacher balcony, it was a beautiful building to shoot.
It also helped that there was a lovely graveyard outside.
The graveyard had it all – the graves of the first European settlers in Trappe, a gravestone from 1736, the tomb of 15 unknown Continental soldiers, and ridiculously gaudy tombstones. It was a dream. Peaceful, buggy, yet serene. It makes sense why graveyards were the first city parks.
The Maundy Thursday service went very well. We sung our hymns, had our feet washed, washed our neighbors feet, and celebrated the Eucharist. It didn’t dawn on me at the time but I actually had my feet washed by an actual diaconal candidate (that doesn’t happen every day). Dr. Lathrop preached. A good time was had by all.
With that service ended, we had a few moments before our next service. I once again headed into the graveyard where I visited the man himself, Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg.
Gravestone in Latin? Wife barely a footnote? Ballsy.
Quite a bit of Muhlenberg’s family is buried in the church. His son the Major General is there as well as his daughter who married a future General. There is a smattering of American Revolutionary war accolades throughout the cemetery. I was bummed to see no mention of Henry’s favorite Dairy Queen.
With the graves visited, I then strolled deeper into the graveyard with my ELW. Then, while out of earshot, I began practicing Psalm 22. I am not a singer and singing in public makes me nervous. But there, amongst the graves, I belted it out. I will admit that, at some points, I was hoping that I was not accidentally chanting an incantation that would raise everyone from the dead. I’ve seen movies and TV shows that started that way. It would have made the retreat quite a different kind of event.
The Good Friday service began promptly at 3 pm. I took my seat in the very first box pew. The readings were read. I chanted and the assembly chanted responsively. A friend of mine presided. Dr. Lathrop preached. But rather than preach from the floor (like at the Maundy Thursday service), he wandered up to the pulpit; the pulpit marked restricted area. Dr. Lathrop’s view looked something like this:
As you can see, those individuals sitting in the very first pew, were going to develop neck strain if they tried to look up during the sermon. And we did. My neck hurts just thinking about it.
A storm moved into the area and rained while we were having dinner. Luckily, it blew out before the start of the Easter Vigil. I, again, overate at dinner and I had to be rolled down to where we all gathered to light a bonfire. Earlier in the day, a car accident right in front of the church had damaged a transformer and caused power outages in the neighborhood. Firemen and police officers were around all day. One wandered onto the church campus and one of our students asked if he was there because we were going to light a fire in the graveyard. This was the first he heard about it and he had a few questions. But everything was fine and we all gathered and waited for Dr. Lathrop, Dr. Krentz, Laura, and Jay to process from the church to where we had gathered.
With the fire lit, we moved into the boy scout room of the community center at the church. There, all 14 readings were done (and their responses). I never before had participated in an Easter Vigil where all the readings were done and I must say that I quite enjoyed it. The lectors were great and the prayers/song responses were perfect. They were not too short nor were they too long. They added distance between readings but were not boring. During some of the readings, laughter was shared. The group got into it. It probably helps that we’re all mostly pastors-to-be but I think we all had a good time. And, through it all, everything was in candle light. In the words of Dr. Lathrop, it was gorgeous.
With the readings done, we returned through the darkness to the old church building. Covering our candle sticks, we did our best to keep them lit during the thanksgiving for baptism. In the church, the sermon was preached and eucharist was shared. With that, the evening was done and we all piled into our respective vehicles and returned to where we had come.