Home Worship Planning Helps for Holy Saturday Morning or Early Afternoon

Worship Planning Helps for Holy Saturday Morning or Early Afternoon

Reading Notes

Revised Common Lectionary Readings

See full texts, artwork, and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado

Job 14:1-14 A lament on the finality of death.

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 (UMH 764) A cry for God's protection in the face of danger and death. If you chant this, consider using Tone 2 (UMH 857) with no sung response, or use Tone 2 to sing "In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame" as the response.

I Peter 4:1-8 Be prepared to suffer in this life, as Christ suffered, and put sin to death for the sake of your prayers.

Matthew 27:57-66 Joseph of Arimathea requests the body of Jesus be placed in a new tomb he owns. Some religious leaders ask Pilate to place a contingent of guards around the tomb to ensure the followers of Jesus cannot steal the body and claim Jesus rose from the dead.

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Worship Planning Notes


Today until sundown is called "Holy Saturday." Here we continue in a vigil of prayer and fasting as we live with the desolation of Jesus buried in the tomb.

Holy Communion is not to be offered at this service, nor at any time again until the Great Vigil (after sundown tonight) or Easter Sunday morning. Plan to end this service with a simple dismissal in silence rather than a full benediction.

Holy Saturday services may be offered at any time during the daylight hours, and as services of the Word only, may be offered in conjunction with one of the services of Daily Prayer (morning or midday) found in UMH (876-879) or BOW (568-576). Either the Collect for Holy Saturday (BOW 367) or the public domain version (see below) may be the opening prayer for this vigil.

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Simplicity, even starkness, continues for this service. No flowers, no paraments, no banners or other decorations anywhere. Consider using little music and no musical instruments — and no projection, if possible.

Since this is a service of the Word only, consider also the possibility of scheduling a number of these throughout your community -- bringing people who live or will be relatively near one another together in smaller groups in members' homes or another convenient "third place." It is not necessary that clergy lead this service.

Consider offering it online, too—perhaps via Twitter (the responses suggested below fit within Twitter’s 140 character limit), with links to the full texts of the Scripture readings. If you do this, announce the hashtag you will be using ahead of time, and provide a link to the whole service so people can key in their responses in real time as the service unfolds. I will lead this service on Twitter at 10 AM ET, #holysat16. Full resources and links to audio files are available here.

This is a service primarily of silence, punctuated at times by words.

If you plan to offer an Easter Vigil later in the evening, and if flowers are arriving throughout the day (you can hide the flowers, but not their scent!), you may want to consider doing the Holy Saturday service as a service of morning prayer so that the hours from morning to vigil may be kept with solemnity. Here is a possible service order, based on Morning Prayer.


All stand. Silent procession of worship leader (lay or clergy) carrying a Bible to the lectern or holding it in the midst of the people.

Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Let us pray:

O God, creator of heaven and earth:
The crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath.

(Silence for one minute)

So we may await with him the coming of the third day,
and rise with him to newness of life.
(Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Public Domain.)

(Silence for one minute)


First Reading

(Silence for two minutes)

The Psalm
(Read in unison, pausing in silence for a full breath between verses. Or, if via Twitter, simply tweet the entire psalm, pausing between verses, and encourage those following to say it aloud as it appears in their feed).

(Silence for two minutes)

Second Reading

(Silence for two minutes)

Gospel (All stand)

(Silence for three minutes)


Let us pray for the church and the world.

Hear our silent prayers, O God.

For the leaders and mission of your church in every place…

(Silence for one minute)

For all that lives and moves upon the earth, and all that sustains our lives…

(Silence for one minute)

For every leader and all who work for justice, freedom, and peace…

(Silence for one minute)

For all who labor and the fruits of their work…

(Silence for one minute)

For the sick, all prisoners, and the lonely, and all who remember and care for them…

(Silence for one minute)

For all who are born this day, and all who will die…

(Silence for one minute)

We pray as Jesus taught us…

The Lord’s Prayer (Unison. If on Twitter, encourage all to pray this aloud in their first language or the version they know best by heart)

(Silence for one minute)


Leader: Go in peace.

All depart in silence. If on Twitter, persons may respond Amen or PBWY.

Embodying the Word: Silence

Good Friday is the most agonizing service of the Christian year.

Holy Saturday is the most contemplative.

On this day, as no other, we are invited into the most profound silence of the life of God, whose Son, "of one being with the Father," lay buried in a tomb. That is what we can perceive from this side of Easter. From the other side, at services later tonight or tomorrow, we will celebrate how Christ preached to those in captivity and broke Hell's chains forever. But for this service, we speak from the emptiness of death as we know it and as the very Being of God experienced it.

We hear from Job, who had no hope for a future beyond this life and could not understand how God could allow such suffering to befall humans.

We join the prayers of the Psalmist that God may yet be our refuge in the face of danger and death.

We are confronted by the preaching of Peter, reminded that this emptiness and suffering are essential for a disciplined life of prayer.

We hear of the burial of Jesus and the political attempts to silence his followers, attempts that seemed likely to succeed.

And we are silent. Around all the hearing and the praying, we are silent. We join God's silence, the silence of creation, the silence of death.

And from that silence, we offer our prayers for the church and the world with the prayer Jesus taught us. And then, to silence we return to contemplate the mystery of the death of our Lord until the celebration of his Passover begins.

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Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) with links and other suggestions

For a prayer for this day, see BOW 367.

In the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle we continue to pray for the people of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

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