The Great Vigil of Easter

by Taylor Burton-Edwards
The Blessing of the New Fire and Lighting of the Paschal Candle
This is done outside, around the fire if weather permits. If not, it may be done in the foyer area.

Invitation and Prayer (All stand), UMBOW 371
The Lighting of the Paschal Candle, UMBOW 371

The dancer uses streamers or something of red and orange and yellow to symbolize the light at the response:

Cantor: The light of Christ (sung three times)
People: Thanks be to God

The paschal candle leads us into the sanctuary, with the Dancer encouraging us to follow. The congregation may sit in the pews at this point, but the Dancer and the Candle stay at the font for:

The Exsultet, UMBOW 372 ff.
We will use the sung congregation response three times: "Rejoice heavenly powers . . ." once after the three "Rejoices," once after the three "this is the nights," and once before the final "Amen."

Liturgy of the Word

(Please remain seated for the lessons)

Read at the font

Lesson I (The Story of Creation)
Genesis 1:1-2:2

Collect, UMBOW 373
The Dancer stays by the font and the reader for the reading with something that indicates green and growing, then she moves clockwise toward the pews to the left. Shift from growth and new life to chains of slavery. That which was green and growing wilts in the process.

Read from second station -- clockwise to the left

Lesson II (Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea)
Exodus 14:10-15:1

Collect, UMBOW 374
The Dancer moves from where this reader is toward the podium where the next reader is. The dancer is initially joyous in freedom from chains and accompanied by others (children). But the children leave by the time she arrives at the next station -- the podium/lectern.

Read from the floor at the podium/lectern.

Lesson III (Salvation offered freely to all)
Isaiah 55:1-5 Congregational Song: The Second Song of Isaiah
UMH 124 or 125 (Need to find appropriate setting)
Collect, UMBOW 374

The Dancer moves from the podium across and around the front of the sanctuary alone, in silence, going slower and slower until she is on the right side of the congregation and facing away from the congregation, desolation: the valley of dry bones, no hope. 10-15 seconds of silence after she stops.

Read from right front corner of sanctuary.

Lesson IV (The Valley of the Dry Bones)
Ezekiel 37:1-14 30-40 seconds of silence after the reading then:
Collect, UMBOW 375

The Celebration of Easter

After the collect, the three alleluias (see below) each one louder and more joyous than the last. The Dancer becomes more energized and joyous with each one and moves toward the back corner of the sanctuary where the bells are normally located and the next reader is located. The last alleluia should include ringing the big bell and any other loud sounds.

(The congregation stands and remains standing)

Celebrant: Alleluia, Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
(said three times)

"Alleluia, Alleluia Give Thanks," UMH 162

The Epistle: Romans 6:3-11

After the reading, all reply: "Thanks be to God."

Resurrection Hymn: "The Strife is O'er, the Battle Won," UMH 306

After the hymn, the dancer moves from the bell area back to the font, where the pastor will read the gospel. A short homily to the church and the baptismal candidates talking about the great arc of the story of salvation history, a story of God calling and leading us home.

The Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10
Pastor (Standing): The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
People: Glory to you, Lord Christ.

After the reading:
Pastor: The gospel of the Lord.
People: Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Dancer remains near the font, and will lead the offertory of the bread and wine to the Lord's Table later.


The Baptismal Covenant, UMH 33

The Prayers of the People
UMH 485 for sung responses; UMH 879 for intercessions, plus add intercessions for the newly baptized here and around the world this night

The Invitation and Peace
Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, all who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to be at peace with God and their neighbors.

Pastor: The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People: And also with you.

Holy Communion

Offertory: "Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day"

Presentation: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow," UMH 94

The Great Thanksgiving, UMBOW 66
Musical setting: TFWS, 2257 (Mark Miller)

Communion Songs:

  • "Christ the Lord Is Risen," TFWS 2216
  • "Taste and See," TFWS 2267
  • "Christ Is Risen," TFWS 2116 (reprise)

Post Communion Prayer, UMH 11

Benediction and Sending

Processional Hymn: "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," UMH 302

Postlude: "Christians Rejoice" (arr. John Leavitt)

Categories: Lent - Easter - Holy Week, Easter, Easter Day and Season, Holy Week