This Is the Night! The Vigil of Easter

by Chris Cherwien

This is the night! The Vigil of Easter is the heart of our celebration of the Three Days and the pinnacle of the church’s year. We gather around a pillar of fire, hear ancient stories of our faith, welcome new siblings in Christ at the font, and share food and drink. We proclaim Christ crucified and risen!

When I began my music ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church in 2012, I learned that they had a tradition of involving children and youth in the Vigil of Easter. I was skeptical. This is a very lengthy and complex liturgy. How do you get children and youth engaged for the length of time this service requires?

After the service my first year, a chorister asked me, “Do I have to wait a whole year before the next one?” I understood why she didn’t want to wait: The fire outside and procession into the foyer. The creative story telling in a large room outside of the sanctuary. The recorder and drum leading us to the font and asperges. Then pick up your bell and cram into the narthex until the doors fly open and it is time for the “Great Noise”! This is a service unlike any other with sights and sounds and movement!

Our liturgy begins outside at 6 pm with the lighting of a new fire. This early time helps families with young children be able to attend. After the blessing of the Paschal Candle, we share the light and process into the church to sing the Easter Proclamation. “Rejoice, now, all heavenly powers!”

At Immanuel, the staff divides the storytelling section between different age groups (elementary, choristers, confirmands, high school, adults). Five lessons are told using a variety of mediums. The graph below shows an example of the Word section:

Story Who Type Needs
Creation Elementary
Watercolors Projector
Red Sea Adult trio

Words in bulletin

Isaiah 55 Puppet Troupe 
Puppets Stage
Ezekiel 36 Youth
Video Projector
Fiery Furnace Choristers
Drama with instruments

Two microphones

Each lesson has a sung response and prayer that follows. For sung responses after the lessons, I recommend The Music Sourcebook for Lent and the Three Days.

After the fifth lesson the choristers robe and then join the congregation around the font for a baptism or remembrance of baptism.

We travel again. This time from the foyer to the narthex. Each person is given a bell when they enter to make “The Great Noise”! We’ve followed the light, heard the stories, and remembered the journey from death to life in baptism. Now it’s time to celebrate! The doors open, lights and organ, brass, and everyone’s bells ringing each time we sing “Alleluia”! The Holy Gospel and the meal. What a night to remember! No wonder our choristers don’t want to wait a whole year!

Posted on Mar 3, 2022 9:00:00 AM
Filed Under: Music Ministry, Filed Under: Easter, Filed Under: Lent,

Chris Cherwien

Written by Chris Cherwien

Chris Cherwien has been a church musician for over 38 years serving congregations in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. In all three cities Chris founded/co-founded summer music and arts camps for children and youth. She is currently the Director of Worship and Music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been the alto section leader for the National Lutheran Choir since 2012. Chris and her husband Paul have three grown children and four grandchildren.