Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whole Lotta Churchin' Goin' On, Part III

(First, read this and this.)  Tonight we attended an Easter vigil at our church.  It was a bit different from the vigil services that we attended at our last church (recall this and this).  Unlike last night's service, which started in light and ended in darkness, tonight's service started with dim lighting but ended with full lighting to symbolize the journey from death to resurrection, from sorrow to hope and rejoicing.  The pastor enlisted 12 more volunteers again tonight, this time to light and hold their own candles while standing in a V formation in front of the altar as he read about the 12 disciples.  Hillary, Abigail, and Suzanna each volunteered for that!

The bulletin for the service said, "The Easter Vigil service traditionally focuses on twelve readings of the Old Testament along with corresponding Psalms and prayers."  In the interest of time, the pastors read from only four of them, but I had to investigate the tradition.  It seems that the use of twelve readings for this service is ancient and that the original twelve are known.  It also seems that the twelve listed in our bulletin aren't necessarily the same twelve used elsewhere.  Here was our list:

  1. the creation story from Genesis 1
  2. the story of the great flood from Genesis 7
  3. the test of Abraham's faithfulness from Genesis 22
  4. the song of Moses after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea from Exodus 15
  5. God's offer of mercy to all from Isaiah 55
  6. "the wisdom of God is above all" -- not specified but maybe from James 3 (although that's New Testament . . .)
  7. "God will give His people a new heart and a new spirit within them" -- not specified but maybe from Ezekiel 36
  8. the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel 37
  9. "the gathering of God's people -- restoration to life and wholeness" -- not specified but maybe from Isaiah 35
  10. Jonah's calling to proclaim God's word from Jonah 3
  11. "the spirit of the Lord is upon me -- good news, release, proclaim" -- not specified but maybe from Luke 4 (although that's New Testament . . .)
  12. God's deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Nebuchadnezzar's furnace from Daniel 3
For the last reading from Daniel, the children were invited to come forward as Pastor Lisa read a version from a children's Bible.  There weren't many people in attendance tonight, and the vast majority were elderly, so all three Moberg girls went up . . . and were joined by one other elementary school-aged boy and one toddler held by her mom.

Then we were invited forward for a laying-on-of-hands blessing to affirm our baptism and confirmation.  Then we had New Testament readings that proclaim Christ's resurrection; we had communion; and we had hymns and prayers that used the word "alleluia" after a long Lenten season of not getting to use that word in church.  The Easter vigil service can be several hours long, but ours was under an hour (and still Suzanna overheard someone complain about how it should have been wrapped up sooner . . . and the complainer was the church organist for the night!).  Because this congregation isn't accustomed to having a vigil service the night before Easter morning, it was probably best to "start small"; maybe over a few years we can work up to the bonfire and candelit procession and multiple readings and other elements that make up vigil services elsewhere.


  1. I always enjoyed the Easter vigil services at Calvary, and I hope that St. John will decide to try it again!

  2. Complaining about an hour church service? One word.....Wow.