Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Already thinking about Lent.

We don't have many teenagers at St. George's, so we don't have an established youth group.  But we have lots of 9-11-year-olds, so I'm working on special events for them, so that when they all start outgrowing our Sunday School, we're already partway towards forming a youth group with them.

The first of these events is a sleepover in the church on February 25th to 26th, which is the first Saturday and Sunday of Lent.  This will include late-night worship in the church!

Here's the order of service (and this group is indoctrinated enough to know that saying "Hallelujah" in Lent is slightly subversive, so it will feel a bit like prefiguring Easter even in the middle of the darkness, which is how the end of the service is supposed to feel - especially since we'll have lit all those candles.)

Worship for Lock-In
10 p.m.
1st Saturday of Lent

We enter the church in silence.  Most of the church is dark – the cross is illuminated, and there are a few lights on around the chancel so we don’t trip, but apart from that, the church is in darkness.  We sit in chairs in a semi-circle around the altar.  In front of the altar is a purple cloth on which is arranged a large candle, a large bowl, long tapers, and a selection of tealights in holders.  On each chair is a piece of paper and a pen.

Leader: O God, make speed to save us.
All           O Lord, make haste to help us.

Reading One:
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

All           Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal one, have mercy on us.


Brothers and sisters in Christ, since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection and prepared for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

By carefully keeping these days, Christians take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

The Lord invites you, therefore, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.

Therefore, let us now recall our sins, those times when we have spoiled the image of God in our hearts, those times we have been selfish, thoughtless, or cruel, and ask for God’s forgiveness.

From all evil and cruelty;
from vanity and hypocrisy;
from envy, hatred, and malice;
from contempt towards those different from us,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: From laziness and love of money;
from hardness of heart,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: In all times of sorrow;
in all times of joy;
in the hour of death,
and at the day of judgement,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: By the mystery of your holy incarnation;
by your birth and childhood;
by your baptism, fasting and temptation,

All           good Lord, deliver us.
By your ministry in word and work;
by your mighty acts of power;
and by your preaching of the kingdom,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: By your agony and trial;
by your cross and passion;
and by your precious death and burial,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: By your mighty resurrection;
by your glorious ascension;
and by your sending of the Holy Spirit,

All           good Lord, deliver us.

Leader: Holy God,

All           holy and mighty,
holy immortal one,
have mercy upon us.

Silence is kept.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

The temptation of Christ, told with feltboard

Then we wonder about the story.

Each person then contemplates something about themselves which they wish to let go of this Lent, and draws or writes it on their piece of paper (which can then be folded over for privacy).  They then come up one by one and set their paper alight with the large candle, placing it to burn to ashes in the bowl.  During this, music plays (Ashokan Farewell?) – on the CD player.

When all the "sins" have been burnt, the leader takes the bowl of ashes and distributes them to the children, making the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads, with the words “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

When all the children have received their ashes, they light a tealight from the big candle and place it on the altar.

Song (with CD – Rufus Wainwright version – final verse a cappella):

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this – the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe I’ve been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
But I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
And all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


  1. I like your litany a whole lot better than the one in the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book. Did you write it yourself (obviously with sources, many of which I recognize of course) or is it verbatim from somewhere?

    I'm fascinated by your use of the Hallelujah song. How well-known is it among that age group in the UK? And what do you think the parents will think of its overtly sexual content?

  2. I meant to say, I like your litany better than the Ash Wednesday litany in the 1979 US BCP.

  3. I cut the verse with the sexual content (which is not that overt anyway - it could be understood metaphorically, and that's how I understood it for several years until I went "oh!" and got it).

    It's fairly well-known among teenagers - not sure how well the 10-year-olds will know it, but I'll take some time beforehand to teach it to those who don't (those who do can help).

  4. Oh, and in answer to your questions, I wrote it, but very little of it is actually original, as it's cobbled together. You'll notice I changed "I call you therefore to the observance of a holy Lent" to "the Lord calls you," as the leader of this service will be me, and I'm not clergy.

    The "burning our sins so they become the ashes and then using the fire we burnt them with to spread light throughout the worship area" thing is mine, though.