What’s a Tenebrae Service and Why are We Having One?

On Friday, April 19, at 7:00 pm, we’ll be having a Good Friday Tenebrae service at Live Oak. Since it’s our first (or at least the first in many years), I wanted to share some information about it.

Everyone is welcome

This is a service that focuses on the last days in the life of Jesus, but everyone who is interested (no need to be a Christian) is invited to attend. It is a service that reflects our unique Unitarian Universalist Christology – our historic theology about the nature and personhood of Jesus. There is no prior knowledge that you will need to know – everything will be spelled out during the service.


This service will actually be somewhat of a combined “Maundy Thursday” and “Good Friday” service.  We will have a reading about Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, and communion (grape juice and gluten-free bread) will be offered by intinction, e.g. you dip a bit of bread into a large cup of juice. Those who wish to partake will come forward to the altar table. As it is in all UU churches, this is an “open table,” which means anyone (all ages, any religious belief, or no belief) is welcome to come forward.

Readings, Music, and Candles

The service will combine ancient readings and modern ones, as we move through the last hours of Jesus’ life. During the service, after each section, another candle will be extinguished.

The End of the Service

This is a very somber service, in keeping with the story of when Jesus was put to death. We are willingly entering into a space of despair. Following tradition, the service ends with extinguishing the last candle, putting us in darkness. You will hear a loud bang, as the Bible is slammed shut. Everyone is asked to leave silently.

Why are we doing this service?

  • Because Live Oak is truly a “big tent” church. Our members include those who still count Christianity as one of their influences, identify as Christian, or simply want to experience a wide range of religious belief.
  • For the Christian members of Live Oak, we want to send a clear message that they –and their beliefs—are welcome here, along with all the other rich theological diversity we have here.
  • This is part of our Unitarian and Universalist theological heritage.
  • No matter your belief system, the themes of disillusionment, authoritarian power, trying to live out your faith no matter the cost, and deep despair are powerful issues even (especially?) today.

Have any more questions? Please email me! minister@liveoakuu.org