Tenebrae Reimagined

Shadows 2018

Click on pic to go to dropbox for files

This is a powerful, millennial friendly, holy week liturgy to put in your file for next Spring. If Tenebrae is new to you, you might think of it as a camp “cross-video”…only one that happens in your mind and with much more emotional impact.

It is an adaptation of the 8th century monastic service found in the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services. We kept what works best (candles, the growing darkness of the room, the chant and participation through responsive prayer.) However, we adapted it to utilize the benefits of technology and help it to fit our contemporary context (i.e. one evening rather than three mornings before sunup).

1. Because it uses projected Keynote slides for the readings, you can have the room actually and powerfully dark.

2. Rather than being lost in puzzling Lamentations readings, it tells the story of Jesus’ Passion completely through Old Testament messianic prophecy.

3. It has the opportunity to integrate modern sound (a terrific “earthquake” rumbles the room at the resurrection), and the best of contemporary hymnody (How Deep the Father’s Love) with the symbolism, participation, and chant. It is also quite flexible: You can use the included charts for your own cantor or play the included chant recordings. You can have your own soloist and use a backing track, or play the vocal version of the hymn within the slideshow. (You will still need candles, a table, snuffer, and a black hooded alb. You will also need a Mac with Keynote, screen, sound system, and a good rehearsal.)

4. It is clear enough and brief enough for children to remain engaged. We knew we had a winner the first time we used this. At the point of Christ’s death you could hear people quietly sobbing all over the nave. People stayed in the darkened church long after the service was over. We had to finally ask the last few to leave an hour later to lock up. As far as I can tell some 5-6k folk have attended this service.

If you use it, please shoot me an email with feedback and a photo or two if you can get one in the dark.



Pre-service explanation to 800 young adults at PhoenixOne.


Will we go with Jesus to the Cross?

Tenebrae2013If you are in Phoenix and want a more transformative Holy Week experience, come to “Tenebrae Re-imagined.

Tenebrae is a monastic tradition from the 8th Century and uses the extinguishing of candles to represent the fading and fickly loyalty of Jesus’ disciples as he went to and through his passion…and by extension, our fading and fickle loyalty to the crucified Savior as well. It has come back into vogue in the last decade. Unfortunately, most of these services are “insider friendly,” long and involve obscure readings from Lamentations.

We have redone the service in a very powerful way:

1. It traces Jesus’ Passion through Old Testament prophetic passages, material written between 400-1000 years before Jesus was born.

2. It is multi-sensory: It uses both chant and modern music, darkness and light, silence and sound, actors and audience participation.

3. It uses both multi-media & live candles….allowing the room to be actually dark.

4. It is brief: 45 minutes long

If you are from an evangelical tradition, think of it as a Cross-video that plays in your mind – Powerful and brief.

This version, that we wrote, is now being done in 10 places around the country. Last year we did it with PhoenixOne. This year it is led, directed and sung by college and high school students. In the four times we have presented this we have had to ask people to leave more than 30 minutes after the service was finished. It is emotionally powerful and excellent. Come check it out!