Good Shepherd Episcopal Church is a historic and very traditional building done in a simplistic, Gothic style. The exterior is a stone building with a bright red door leading to the sanctuary and a beautiful courtyard with a wrought iron gate, trees, stone seats, and a statue of a young lady pouring water.
The interior is gorgeous and makes you feel as though you have stepped back into an old chapel in England. The whitewashed walls are lined with multicolored stained glass windows of saints and Jesus and offset by wainscoting that matches the old wooden pews. The high altar is a raised platform at the front of the church separated by a wooden altar rail. The altar itself is a wooden table with a golden cross behind it and six candles around the cross. The free standing table has two candles around it all lit giving it a heavenly appearance. The altar cloths were not violet as is normal for Lent, but unbleached linen with a crown of thorns pattern on them. The priest was dressed in vestments of the same material.
I arrived late to the service and after the service, members of the congregation stayed to pray. I felt it wouldn't be appropriate to snap any pictures. However, I did go to a Christmas Eve service there back in December and snapped this picture of the church's interior in all of its glory.
The atmosphere in this church is classic and inspiring. I loved it very much.
The people at Good Shepherd are genuinely very friendly people. They are a hugging and welcoming sort of people. The priest is a little English woman who radiates kindness. The majority of the congregation is white, and most who attend are elderly, but they are very kind people who are very open minded, yet traditional.
The service was quite lovely. It is virtually identical to a Catholic service in most aspects. It began with traditional hymns sung by the choir, all dressed in red robes, readings about the Exodus and St. Paul talking about the Eucharist. Then the gospel reading focused on Jesus washing his apostle's feet and instituting the new commandment to love one another.
Afterward, the deacon gave a sermon, more on that in "The Message" section.
After the sermon, the priest took of her chasuble (a poncho-like outer garment priests wear) and put on an apron. She then read an invitation to the congregation to come forward for foot washing if they wished as a reminder that the servant is not greater than the master. She then washed the feet of several congregants.
Once the foot washing was over, there was another hymn sung by the choir, and then prayers were recited on behalf of the people of the congregation, the country, and the world. They then exchanged the Peace, which is a friendly greeting to your neighbors in the pews wishing them peace. This was proceeded by communion done in the same ceremonial fashion as a Catholic Mass with bells and chants. During communion the choir sang "Ave Verum Corpus" by Mozart, proceeded by a prayer, then a song about Jesus in Gethsemane.
The deacon and several members of the congregation then stripped the sanctuary of all of its ornaments: the candles, the altar cloths, the cushions in the chairs around the altar, the flags, the books, everything, and covered any statues with violet cloths until the entire sanctuary was bare. While they did this, the priest read the 22nd Psalm, which begins with the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Once the altar was completely bare, they placed a container containing left over consecrated bread from communion on the bare altar and covered it in a cloth.
The priest then stood before the congregation and invited them to come up and place a flower before the altar as a sign of mourning. One by one we came forward and laid flowers at the foot of the altar while a person in the back somberly rang the church bell.
The priest then said the vigil was to begin. They are holding an all night prayer vigil in the chapel where people can come and pray before the altar remembering Jesus.
I have to say, this is the prettiest Maundy Thursday service I have ever seen and I am amazed at the effect it had on me.
The sermon was a little dry and predictable. It was about humility and how Judas was to betray Jesus and Jesus predicting this at the Last Supper. But then the deacon said that while it's easy to paint Judas as the villain of history, all of Jesus's disciples eventually turn on him, they do so by not living up to their ideals and standards. She reminded the congregation, that those standards are summed up in the great commandment Jesus teaches, love one another as he loved us.
I didn't take much from this sermon I haven't heard a million times in many other churches. It was quite an appropriate sermon for the day, but nothing earth shattering.
This was a very amazing service, and I'm glad I chose this to be the church for Maundy Thursday. It was traditional, yet felt somehow very connected to the modern world. I recommend checking out Good Shepherd highly.
Keep an eye out for the next two installments of this blog. Hope you enjoy them.
Until next time, peace be with you.