First Christian Church of Denton once had a Good Friday tradition beyond the typical high holidays.
The local congregation would open the doors of its sanctuary at noon, anticipating a rush of Christians who wanted to make it to church for prayer and contemplation at midday.
Mark Graham, who directs music for the congregation, remembers those years.
“Years and years and years ago, First Denton had a Good Friday service that was ecumenical. It was very well attended. It was truly a community service,” he said. “People who weren’t members of our church came because they wanted to worship on Good Friday, but couldn’t make it to a service after work.”
Not everyone gets Good Friday off, and the local church invited the faithful to spend their lunch hour in a service known for being somber and quiet — a high contrast to the joyful sights and sounds of Easter Sunday. Good Friday commemorates the betrayal of Jesus, his night of anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and many of the faithful spend the day in fasting and penance.
For the third year, Graham revives the church’s tradition of a Good Friday service at noon. The worship is strictly scripture and song.
“My second motivation for it is just my passion for sacred music and art,” he said. “I knew there wouldn’t be communion. I know there was no sermon. It was perfect just to have scripture and song.”
Graham’s third motivation was to use the scripture and song to recreate the Stations of the Cross.
Some denominations invite their members to take Jesus’ final journey themselves, stopping at the stations — depicted in stained glass, sculpture or other media — to reflect on Jesus’ path to Calvary and his execution.
Graham selected scriptures from each gospel, then added music to be sung by well-known local singers. University of North Texas voice professor and bass Jeffrey Snider will sing “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended.”
Soloist Emma McClure will sing “Pie Jesu,” and soprano Helen Reikofski will sing Barber’s “The Crucifixion.”
Bunny Hodges will sing the spiritual “Were You There,” and UNT music professor and cellist Nikola Nino Ruzevic will play Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” and Bach’s “Andante.”
“This is one man’s interpretation of the Stations of the Cross, you understand,” he said. “To me, we put this together to make you feel like it’s the equivalent of moving from stained glass window to the next.”
The service starts at noon Friday. First Christian Church of Denton is located at 1203 Fulton St.