An Hour at the Cross – some of ‘The Things He Carried’

In order to understand the cross you need to stand under it… with the imagination as well as the mind. With the heart as well as the head. (Right Revd Stephen Cottrell)

The dais as we closed our 'Hour at the Cross' (the tomb was actually left from the 'All Age' service in the morning)

I have been hugely encouraged by the quantity and type of feedback that I got about the ‘Hour at the Cross’ that I put together and led on Good Friday. I’ve had several phonecalls and comments through Easter Week, been stopped in Waitrose, and had a text message which described it as “a powerful service and most definitely divinely inspired.”

It was not a service that I’d ever attended here at St. Peter’s Yateley – we’ve tended to go ‘All Age’ in the morning up till now. But it was a challenge I actually asked for, as I particularly like putting together liturgy that takes people on a challenging journey – and you can’t really get a more challenging journey that being at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

Crown of Thorns - made by my Father from bramble and Burberis

I focussed on John 19 and used all sorts of resources including: selected bits of Common Worship ‘Times and Seasons’ Liturgy for Good Friday, other prayers adapted from Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community, and two unaccompanied Taize songs. But the most important resources was a book I’d bought earlier in Lent: ‘The Things He Carried’ by Right Revd Stephen Cottrell.

I found Bishop Stephen’s form of reflective writing very moving, and inspirational. His ideas for group work (the book can be used as a Lent Group or Home Group resource as well as for personal devotion) included having something to hold, and I was able to adapt and create similar ideas – Gorse for the Crown of Thorns and blood soaked (inked) bandages for people to take up as they knelt at the cross at the close of the service. I didn’t have a formal sermon – the whole thing was more of a thought journey: which is one of the things that people seem to have really appreciated.

"Blood" soaked bandages (permanent red ink, flicked from a cartridge)

I’m a great believer in sharing worship ideas that have really worked, and this (contrary to some people’s expectation) was not off-the-peg, but as my friend texted, divinely inspired. Creating, and delivering it (helped by a number of people reading, and my husband doing the prayers), were spiritual experiences in themselves for me – and also contributed to answering some doubts I’d had about my own journey of faith and ministry.

Hold a Gorse twig and ask yourself "What do you do that causes Jesus to suffer?"

If you’re interested in what it might look like and want to use this service, please feel free to download it but please also tell me honestly what you think: Hour at the Cross – Good Friday 2011 (The document is full of hyperlinks for you to access the resources or order books and the service lasted an hour exactly – though a significant number of people stayed at the cross for some while after.)

The service concludes with the following prayer, which is the one that Bishop Stephen concludes his book with. It has been suggested to me that this might be useful in some pastoral situations.

Loving God
your Son Jesus Christ carried us to the cross,
shed his blood for us
and brought us into a new community with you:

help us to follow in his way,
deny ourselves and take up the cross he give us,
that the world may learn his way of peace;

may his life and his purposes be alive in us this day,
and may we be alive in him;

and when our hearts are broken,
and when the burdens of this life feel too great to bear,
take us to the cross,
and enable us to see there
the great weight that Jesus carried;
for here we receive the affirmation of your love,
the assurance of your promise,
and the strength to persevere.

For we ask it in his name.

I am indebted to Bishop Stephen for his permission to use his work in this way, and to blog about it. The photo’s in this post were taken by my husband.



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