The Upper Room

This article is from Issue 3 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.

Gathering in The UPPER ROOM
A service of Tenebrae contributed by Rev. Thelma Holmes

Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning “darkness”. It symbolises the apparent victory of the powers of darkness over Jesus in his Passion, and of their actual failure to overwhelm him who is the light of the world.

This Order of Worship is an adaptation of an early Fourth Century celebration of the Christian Church, commemorating the occasion when, in the Upper Room, Jesus gathered with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion (Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:7-38; john 13).It is an occasion on which we look deeply in upon ourselves as we look up to our Lord.

The room is set up for a normal family meal. (We set the tables up in a square so we could all see one another and sat only round the outside at least, that was our intention, but more came than we had expected and we did have peopie on the other side of the table too.)

We have done his using a very simple meal of bread rolls, fish paste, butter, grapes, apples, almonds and raisins, with water to drink. After the grace, each one breaks off a piece of his roll and hands it to the person next to him. The hymn Break Thou the Bread of Life is sung. During the meal there is free conversation, though this could be directed if desired. At a chosen point during the meal, each one pours water into the glass before him and passes it to the next person. All lights other than nine candles are extinguished.

As the meal draws to its close, we trace the steps of the Passion from the shadow of the betrayal to the shadow of the cross. After each passage of Scripture is read, the reader extinguishes the candle before him. (The idea is that the light will gradually be reduced until there is only one candle remaining. Reading the words of hymns may he difficult in the dim light, If you make preparations far enough ahead, these could be photographed on slides and projected, or written on newsprint and spotlighted when required.)

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