By tradition, the Good Friday service is held at noon, the hour of Jesus’s death by crucifixion. The service is somber, and lengthy. The saddest hymns are sung, the Passion is recalled in all its details, the choir and clergy come and go with a silence that is abnormal and spooky.
Images of Jesus above the altar are shrouded in lengths of purple or deep red, symbolic of a dramatic absence.
At St James Episcopal, a large empty wooden cross was brought forward to be venerated. Individuals lined up to kneel and kiss the cross or pray silently, ritually recalling an event whose significance has endured across the millennia, creating a faith that has been contested even as it has reshaped human society.
After a service of two hours, the church began to empty of worshippers, though some remained to pray. Others stepped in off the street, silent observers of one of Christianity’s most holy days.