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Ken Collins’ Website

How to Conduct a Tenebrae service

A Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week, that can be conducted on Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday. You can read a description of a Tenebrae service elsewhere in my website. The purpose of this page is to help you design one.

“Tenebrae” is Latin for “shadows,” so this is a service of shadows. In this service we use increasing darkness to dramatize the increasing sadness of Holy Week.

Ready-Made Tenebrae Liturgies

Why reinvent the wheel? You can find explicit directions for a Tenebrae service in the following books:

Designing Your Own Tenebrae Service

If you cannot use these resources for some reason, here’s how to design your own Tenebrae liturgy.

If you are designing the service for Maundy Thursday, be sure to include a Communion service, because this was the day on which Jesus instituted it. Otherwise, it is optional. In any case, the Communion should be the first half of the service.

Advance Preparation

The Readings

You can devise your own readings, but here is a good starting point:

For Maundy Thursday
Matthew 26:20-25
Matthew 26:31-35
Mark 14:32-41
Matthew 26:47-52
Luke 22:54-62
John 18:33-38a
Matthew 27:20-26
Mark 15:16-20
For Good Friday
Divide John 18:1-19:42 into as many parts as you have readers.

Conducting the Service

Before the Service

The Actual Service

After the Service

It is traditional for people to leave the church and go home without speaking to each other, but if this is the first time you’ve had a Tenebrae, that can be a bit harsh. You can have a subdued fellowship hour after the service.

You can download a printable version of this page to use in planning.