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Discover the ancient tradition of ordering time around patterns of prayer

Office of Theology & Worship, Presbyterian Association of Musicians to offer Good Friday prayer service

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish of Columbia Theological Seminary is helping to lead a Good Friday service that centers on the patterns of prayer. (Photo courtesy of Green Valley Presbyterian Church in Henderson, Nevada)

LOUISVILLE — On April 2, Good Friday, musicians and pastors will offer a gift to the church: an experience of the practice that has sustained them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service, hosted by the Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM) and organized by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology & Worship, will take place at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

The group has been meeting every Friday morning since May 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic would be with us for a while. At first, the small group consisted of pastors and church musicians who knew each other through PAM and Theology and Worship’s Company of New Pastors program.

They gather online for a half hour to read Scripture and sing and pray with one another. Each Friday one leader prepares the liturgy, and another provides music, occasionally with a musician planning the liturgy or a pastor offering music.

Gradually these participants invited other friends and colleagues to join them; there are now 40 people who have signed up for weekly invitations to the service. In September 2020, the group decided to begin holding two services each Friday morning — one at 8:30 Eastern Time and one at 11 o’clock Eastern Time — to better accommodate worshipers in all four time zones in the continental United States and their various schedules.

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for Worship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), calls Good Friday an opportunity to join “Christ’s intercession for the whole church and the world God loves.” (Photo courtesy of Shawn Kang)

According to the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for Worship in the PC(USA), through this experiment in Christian community and common prayer, many in the group have forged deep bonds despite never having met in person. Calling these strong and deep relationships “one of the many fruits” of their time together, Gambrell said it’s been wonderful to see how naturally the ancient practice of daily prayer works in online worship.

The Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish, the J. B. Green Professor of Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, who helps coordinate the Friday prayer service, is looking forward to helping to lead the Good Friday service. She said it’s an opportunity to open up the wider church to the joy she’s experienced in the ancient tradition of ordering time around patterns of prayer.

“So many of us are on Zoom staring at a screen all day long. It makes time so strange,” she said. “But over the course of these months together, having regular time structured by Scripture reading and prayer has settled into our bones. It’s calming and reassuring.”

Instead of meeting at their usual times on Good Friday, the group decided to gather in the afternoon at the time traditionally associated with Christ’s crucifixion. The Good Friday service will be much like the group’s regular Friday services, with the addition of important elements from the Good Friday liturgy: The Solemn Intercession and the Solemn Reproaches of the Cross.

“Part of the practice of daily prayer is knowing that you are joined in prayer by others around the world throughout the day,” Gambrell said. “So, this is a way to draw on that dimension of the church’s tradition. Good Friday is an appropriate occasion to stretch out our arms wide in prayer, joining Christ’s intercession for the whole church and world that God loves.”

To register for the Good Friday service, click here. The service will also be livestreamed on the Presbyterian Association of Musicians’ Facebook page.

 To learn more about the development of this group watch this PAM Town Hall Forum, and for guidance on how to start a prayer group, including for online gatherings, click here.

 For another excellent opportunity for worship on Good Friday, check out “The Last Words: A Good Friday Service,” featuring sermons by current and former Moderators, Co-Moderators, and Vice Moderators of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), from 2-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, April 2.


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