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Good Friday service offers music, seven utterances

by: Ellen Spitaleri, Bill Crane practices on the 25-year-old organ at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Milwaukie.

'It's very rare that people are invited to something contemplative,' said Bill Crane, discussing the upcoming Good Friday service at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Milwaukie.

The service, which begins at noon and continues until 3 p.m., takes place on Friday, March 21, and is entitled 'The Seven Last Words from the Cross - A time of meditation in music, prayer and reflection.'

Crane will play the church's 25-year-old organ, which he described as 'truly exceptional,' and he will be joined by a cellist, a flutist, a violinist and a soprano.

The Rev. Sara Fischer noted that many people think that Christ's last words were something along the lines of 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'

But, she said, the Good Friday service will be honoring his 'seven last utterances from the cross - all the things that Jesus said while he was on the cross.'

Music, scripture, silence

Fischer said, 'We'll have the reading of the word, then seven different people will deliver a brief homily, then we'll have one to two minutes of silence, then a prayer, then we'll sing a hymn, observe more silence and have a piece of music.'

Although the service lasts for three hours, Fischer said that people may come and go during the course of the event.

Crane chose all the music and said his main consideration was that 'the music invites introspection.'

He added, 'It needs to be engaging, interesting and touching, while supporting people being reflective.'

Crane and his fellow musicians have put together a small group they call the Portland Musical Emergency Response Team, and although the name is lighthearted, these are serious and respected musicians, who are 'extraordinarily sensitive people,' he said.

Music inspiring

Crane said his fellow musicians are Justin Kagen, cello; Abby Mages, flute; Lisa Mooyman, soprano; and Sara Watts, violin.

Near the end of the program, the group will perform two chorale preludes on 'Ah, Holy Jesus,' the first by Helmut Walcha and the second by Johannes Brahms.

A chorale prelude is 'where you take a piece of music and embroider it. I tell my students, it is a piece of music in love with a piece of music,' Crane said.

After the sixth word, the choir will sing 'Ah, Holy Jesus,' which Crane called a 'haunting hymn tune,' and then he will play the Walcha piece on the organ.

'It is austere - severely minimal, like an abstract painting,' Crane noted; this will be followed by the Brahms piece.

'Brahms is always a wonderful mixture of melancholy under girded with a strong, silent joy,' he added.

Crane added, 'Good Friday should be a time of restfulness and anticipation. [For] the salvation of the world, Christ had to die and rise again. This service is an invitation to stop and think about that for three hours.'

St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church is located at 2036 SE Jefferson St. in Milwaukie, and can be reached at 503-653-5880. Visit the Web page at: www.stjohnsmilwaukie.org

'The Seven Last Words from the Cross'

The first utterance: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34).

The second utterance: 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise' (Luke 23:43).

The third utterance: 'Woman, behold your son: behold your mother' (John 19:26).

The fourth utterance: 'Eli Eli lema sabachthani?' (Mark 15:34) translation: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

The fifth utterance: 'I thirst' (John 19:28).

The sixth utterance: 'It is finished' (John 19:30).

The seventh utterance: 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit' (Luke 23:46).