The night was a fundraiser for two new organizations that are opening in 2014--the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis, a two-year residential community for women recovering from prostitution, violence and drug abuse.
Tony and I got there about 15 minutes after the doors opened. The Cathedral is an imposing Gothic Revival building that's been designated as a National Historic Monument. I've never been inside the building before; it has beautiful stained glass windows and elaborate carvings across the front, with a spotlight in the center that highlighted the crucifix section. The rest of the sanctuary was surprisingly modern, though. Instead of pews there were rows of movable chairs, and the elaborate altar I expected was missing. The raised area that would typically hold the altar was where the bands were setting up.
In addition to the rows of chairs for seating there were round tables (covered with tablecloths) in the back. The tables were set with bowls of popcorn. Tubs on one side of the room held sodas. There weren't many people there yet, so Tony and I chose seats close to the front and settled in. While we waited I read the program, which offered a good explanation of why we were there:
There is no day on the Christian calendar where it is more fitting to sing the blues than Good Friday. This is the day we see Jesus stripped naked, beaten, and hung on a cross. It is a day where the deepest pain and deepest love humanity and God can offer is laid out for all to see. Good Friday is the blues.After meditating on that profound reflection I was ready for the night to start. The first part of the program was a dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel. Three groups of parishioners spread out across the front. There were several who shared the role of narrator, others who took on a variety of characters (including the crowd sections) and one read the part of Jesus. In the background they played a song by Blind Willie Johnson called "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground".
After the reading was over the music started. The musicians were all unfamiliar to me: Beth Tuttle and Friends, the Kingdom Brothers, and Matthew Lesch. It was amazing how the music could move from blues to spiritual to gospel...sometimes in the same song! Many of the songs were somber, reflecting the solemn nature of the day, but others were joyfully infectious. There were two sets, and in between there were short presentations by the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis.
When the house lights came up at the end of the evening I was amazed to see just how quickly two hours had passed. It was a very spiritual experience.
Five years ago today: New Thing #79--Zap the Dirt!