Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday flashback

Two years ago, I wrote about my father’s dramatic staging of Good Friday services. At the time, I couldn’t show what I was talking about because all I had was a slide and a bad flatbed scanner. Late last year, I bought a film scanner, and now I’ve scanned that slide, which is above.

The photo was taken in 1966, and even though I retouched it a bit to remove dust, it’s in relatively good condition for being 45 years old. At the time this photo was taken, the church was in the midst of a renovation, which raised the altar, rearranged the pipe organ space and other things. So, there’s green temporary floor covering and exposed wood on the steps, all of which helped to make this version of the staging less dramatic than most years.

Here’s my 2009 description of my father’s stagecraft:
Every Christmas, my dad’s church had a couple Christmas trees and once the trees came down the branches were cut off and the trunks set aside. For Good Friday, the tree trunks were lashed together to form a cross and placed in a Christmas tree stand in the chancel. The altar cloths were stripped away, the brass cross usually on it was put away and a plain wooden one brought out. It had a sign saying “INRI” attached to it (my mother made the sign using cardboard my dad’s shirts were wrapped around by the laundry; to this day I call this white-on-one-side, gray-on-the-other-side cardboard “shirt cardboard”).

In those days, ministers usually wore a black cassock with a white surplice over it and a coloured ecclesiastic stole around the neck. On Good Friday my dad and any other service leaders wore the black cassock without the surplice (though my dad eventually had a black stole just for the night’s services), and he wore a crucifix, rather than the usual Protestant empty cross.

The sanctuary was dark, apart from a spotlight on that Christmas tree cross. Eventually my dad read The Passion and when he got to the phrase “He gave up the ghost”, the lights were shut off. Very dramatic. At the end of the service, parishioners filed out in silence.
The photo above, I hope, helps to illustrate what I was talking about, even if this wasn’t necessarily the most representative year.

I bought the film scanner specifically so I can digitise old photos from my childhood and youth, because those old slides are the only photos from my childhood that I have. But I’m also planning on scanning the film negatives from my own photos from over the years so they’re digital, too (and also, I worked out it was cheaper to buy the scanner and do the work myself than to send them out to be scanned). All of which means some old photos may pop up here from time to time to illustrate what I’m talking about. Or, not (partly because I’m not sure what I have, so there may not be much that’s useful for the blog).

But in this case, at least, it proved useful.


amerinz's sis said...

Thanks for the memory. I didn't know that the large cross was made from the Christmas trees. Or maybe I've just forgotten. It was a wonderful service.

I remember a spotlight placed out of sight in the hallway behind the organ's pipes. The light was directed to shine, as you said, on the Christmas tree cross. Yes, it was very dramatic. Lovely.

Thanks again for the memory. Well done!!

Arthur Schenck said...

I remember watching the janitor, whose name I forgot a LONG time ago, making the cross one year. Also, if you look closely at the left side of the photo, by the window, you'll see a lamp is sitting there on that little shelf. I'm pretty sure it was used as a spotlight.