BRIDGEPORT — The Good Friday service at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity begins dimly and only gets darker and darker, until all that’s left is silent blackness.
The powerful ritual is meant to symbolize the absence of God. The church, 643 W. 31st St., will remain dark until Easter Sunday. Here's how it works:
Beginning Friday at 7 p.m., members of the congregation will take turns reciting Christ’s last words on the cross.
After each of the seven rounds, a candle is extinguished and live hymns are performed by musicians who “play them in a way that wrenches your gut,” said the Rev. Tom Gaulke, pastor at First Trinity.
Eventually, the “Christ Candle is carried out and everyone leaves in darkness," Gaulke said
The dramatic service is a tradition at the Bridgeport church, which preaches a message of social justice. Many parishioners are fixtures within the local grassroots activist group Bridgeport Alliance.
That’s what brought Rene Paquin to the pews.
The Bridgeport resident said she’s drawn to the congregation for its stances on social issues.
Paquin will be reciting the “I thirst” portion of Christ’s “Seven Last Words from the Cross.”
“It spoke to me. It’s the only thing he says that’s about being human,” she said.
The Friday service is one in a series of events leading up to the holy weekend.
Throughout the Lenten season, First Trinity hosted a "soup and study" series exploring themes like suffering and injustice, as well as a Christian Seder that invited parishioners to “explore Jewish roots of the Christian faith through ritual, story, song, teaching, and exquisite food and wine.”
On Thursday, the church hosted a foot-washing ceremony.
Friday’s solemn ceremony will be followed by the jubilant Easter Sunday service, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., when the dirges from Friday are transformed into joyous hymns played in “super happy keys," Gaulke said.
After the service is a community brunch in which the congregation is invited to contribute and share food.
“We have a blast,” Gaulke said. “There’s a champagne-and-mimosa toast to the Resurrection.”