Holy Week at St. John’s

Palm Sunday: Holy Eucharist with the Liturgy of the Palms
Service Times: 8 A.M., 10:15 A.M., & 5 P.M.

The Liturgy for the Sunday of the Passion, or Palm Sunday, is the beginning of Holy Week. The service is about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords. The crowds go wild! Their messiah has arrived. Yet Jesus knows that the Messiah they laud is the one they will kill. This day takes us to a mountaintop before we descend into the depths of Holy Week. The journey of this week is one of spiritual transformation, beginning with Jesus at the top of the Mount of Olives and then heading down into Jerusalem to the cross.

All three services begin with the Liturgy of the Palms. The 8 A.M. and 5 P.M. services will take place entirely inside the church while the 10:15 A.M. service will begin in the Essex Town Park with an outdoor procession down Main Street beginning at 10 A.M.

Coffee Hour and Hot Cross Buns directly following the 10:15 A.M. service

Hot cross buns were said to have magical powers that protected ships from shipwreck.

Queen Elizabeth I decided hot cross buns were so special, people could only have them on Good Friday, Christmas, or at burials. Some believe the buns were really banned because the church feared their reported magical powers.

Some believe if you share a hot cross bun with someone, you would be friends with that person for the following year. So, come have a bite of these magical hot cross buns directly following the 10:15 A.M. service!

Mary Bowers and Jennifer Miller will be putting out a sign-up sheet for help with Palm Sunday coffee hour and hot cross buns, however, if you have any questions please contact the office at 860-767-8095 or email Chelsea DiDonato at (chelsea@stjohnsessex.org.)

Maundy Thursday
Agapē Meal | 6 P.M. 

While the Maundy Thursday meal has sometimes been linked to a traditional Passover meal, it should be noted that, in the Gospel of John, this meal is said to have taken place before the Festival of the Passover and thus is not necessarily linked to it. What this meal is unquestionably linked to is Jesus’ self-sacrificing love and his call to us to love one another with the same charity and unconditional love that he modeled for us. This form of love is referred to with the Greek word, agapē, which also came to refer to the early Christian feasts.

During Maundy Thursday, we invite the parish to participate in a traditional Agapē Meal before the evening services begin. It will be a time of sharing and remembering.

If you would like to sign up to help prepare the Agapē Meal, please contact the office at 860-767-8095 or email Chelsea DiDonato at (chelsea@stjohnsessex.org.)

Maundy Thursday Liturgy | 7 P.M. in the Church – View the bulletin | YouTube Livestream

This service recalls the Last Supper of Jesus on the night of his betrayal. It focuses on two major themes: Holy Hospitality and the Institution of the Eucharist.


Holy Hospitality: The Foot‐Washing

Coming from the Latin, Mandatum Novum, or “New Commandment,” maundy refers to the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: “Love one another as I have loved you.” At this service, Christ’s commandment is enacted by the Foot-Washing. After an invitation from the Presider, you may come forward to have your feet washed by the clergy or choose to wash one another’s feet. We encourage you to take part in this beautiful ritual.

The Institution of the Eucharist

After the Foot-Washing, we proceed with the celebration of the Eucharist. Every Sunday, we hear the Words of Institution during the Eucharistic Prayer. They begin: “On the night he was handed over to death and suffering, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread…” The familiar words take on a poignant urgency and reorient us to the central mystery of our faith.

The Stripping of the Altar

The service concludes with the stripping of the altar as an act of preparation for Good Friday. One way to deepen our understanding of the symbolism of this moment is to meditate on the following verse from Psalm 22: “They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.”

Watchnight Vigil | 9 P.M. – 9 A.M. 

During the night on Thursday, a watch is kept before the consecrated bread on the Altar of Repose in the Vesting room. The consecrated bread is felt to be the real presence of Christ, and so we keep vigil with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the last night before he is handed over to be crucified. The tradition comes from the question Jesus asked his disciples Peter, James, and John, who kept falling asleep as Jesus prayed in agony awaiting his arrest: “Can’t you keep watch with me even one hour?” So, we keep watching, praying through the night. Maggie Walden will be coordinating the vigil sign-up, however, if you have any questions please contact the office at 860-767-8095 or email Chelsea DiDonato at (chelsea@stjohnsessex.org.)

Good Friday
Good Friday liturgy | 9 A.M. Essex Meadows

The service at Essex Meadows will be a cooperative endeavor offered by St. Ann’s, Old Lyme, and St. John’s, Essex. It is co-led by The Rev. Anita Schell and The Rev. Kate Wesch.

Good Friday liturgy | noon in the church – View the bulletin | Youtube Livestream

This Liturgy marks Christ’s crucifixion, but it is not a funeral. Instead, the focus is on extolling the glory of the Cross, through which all creation has been redeemed.

The Church is bare and the ministers enter in silence. The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the reading of the Passion according to John. The sermon and the Solemn Collects follow. In praying the Solemn Collects, we pray on behalf of the entire world, for which Christ died. After the Solemn Collects, a heavy wooden cross is brought in and positioned in the Chancel. Time is allowed for worshipers to come forward and venerate the cross by kneeling before it, touching it, standing next to it, lighting a candle, even kissing it. The service concludes with a brief communion taken from the bread consecrated the night before at the Maundy Thursday service.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church

Held in the Church after the Good Friday Liturgy with The Rev. Kate Wesch. Private and confidential, this sacrament is a healing way to end the Lenten season for any who wish to be restored to God because their relationship with God has been broken by sin. When preparing for confession, reflect on events from the past week, month, year, or even longer.

Intergenerational Stations of the Cross | 3 P.M. beginning in the Parish Hall

Praying the Stations of the Cross is an ancient tradition remembering Mary retracing her son’s last steps along what became known as the Via Dolorosa (the Sorrowful Way) on His way to the Crucifixion at Calvary in Jerusalem. People of all ages, especially children, are invited to walk the path of Jesus in His last hours. Fourteen interactive stations will invite participants to reflect and pray through sensory experience.

Holy Saturday Liturgy
April 16, 12 P.M. in the Church 

Holy Saturday falls between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day when Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his death. At noon, people gather for a short, simple service of prayers and readings. There is no Eucharist and no music. In the midst of Easter preparations, all pause to pray and remember this day.

The Great vigil of easter – View the bulletin | Youtube Livestream
April 16, 7 p.m. beginning in the amphitheater

Elaborate and dramatic, this service utilizes all the senses as we recount salvation history and revel in the saving power of God’s great mercy. There will be incense at this service. The liturgy intended as the first (and arguably, the primary) celebration of Easter is also known as the Great Vigil. The service begins in darkness and consists of four parts: The Service of Light (kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, the Exsultet); The Service of Lessons (readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with canticles, and prayers); Christian Initiation (Holy Baptism) or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows; and the Eucharist.

Through this liturgy, the church recovers an ancient practice of keeping the Easter feast. You are also encouraged to bring bells of all kinds to ring out with joy at the Easter proclamation this night!

Dessert reception following the Easter Vigil in the Parish Hall.

Mary Bowers and Jennifer Miller will be putting out a sign-up sheet for help with the reception, however, if you have any questions please contact the office at 860-767-8095 or email Chelsea DiDonato at (chelsea@stjohnsessex.org.)

The Sunday of the Resurrection
Easter day, April 17

Easter Sunrise Service, 6 A.M. at the River Museum (weather permitting)

For those attending this early sunrise service of communion on the river, please bring your own chairs.

Easter Service, 8 A.M. & 10:15 A.M. – View the Bulletin | YouTube Livestream

Holy Week concludes with the greatest feast of the Christian year, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. With unbridled festivity, we pull out all the stops in our liturgy and music.

Join us for a Potluck Brunch at 9-10 A.M.

The community gathers in the Undercroft between Easter services to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with food! Bring a hot breakfast dish (like quiche or strata) fruit salad, or a beverage to share on Easter morning.

Mary Bowers and Jennifer Miller will be putting out a sign-up sheet for help with Potluck Brunch, however, if you have any questions please contact the office at 860-767-8095 or email Chelsea DiDonato at (chelsea@stjohnsessex.org).

Easter Egg Hunt

The St. John’s Easter Egg Hunt for children of all ages begins after the 10:15 a.m. service. The Egg Hunt takes place in Essex Town Park.

*There is no 5:00 P.M. service on Easter Day. Those who regularly attend the 5:00 P.M. service are encouraged to attend either the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening or one of our other Easter services.