Good Friday: Seven Last Words Service of Lament

Good Friday: Seven Last Words Service of Lament


Crucifixion and Black Death: A Seven Last Words Service of Lament


Scroll down to find the video files for use in your church


This year’s Seven Last Words service for Good Friday will place the traditional scripture texts of Jesus’ final words from the cross in conversation with those of seven black Americans killed by police or extrajudicial actors. This pairing illustrates that just as evil seems to win a confrontation with God’s transforming will at the crucifixion of Jesus, so it sometimes seems when we consider the conditions of our contemporary world. Both lead us to deep lament on what is one of the most difficult days of the Christian year and in the life of the church.

Black Americans are far more likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts. An analysis by the Washington Post found that “the rate at which Black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans.” This long-standing problem traces far back to the country’s history of slavery and slave patrols, however, the high-profile death of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others last year focused renewed issue on this epidemic of racialized violence.

This recognition of this ongoing conversation, this service will be an adaptation of the multi-movement work “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” by Atlanta composer Joel Thompson. Thompson’s work was first performed in 2015 by the Men’s Glee Club at the University of Michigan. Thompson’s was inspired by Iranian-American artist Shirin Barghi’s #lastwords project, and drew from more than a dozen of Barghi’s illustrations containing the dying words of unarmed black men shot and killed by police or other authority figures. Thompson then chose seven statements that aligned most closely with the classical structure of Joseph Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.”

Our service maintains the traditional scriptural texts associated with the Seven Last Words and couples each with the dying words of a person who died as a result of police violence. We have substituted some of the quotes from Thompson’s work with the words of women and people who have died since the work premiered in 2015.

This service is a production of the justice team at the Southern New England Conference, with participation and support by staff throughout the organization.

~ The Rev. James D. Ross II, Minister for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Full Worship is available here.

Click here to download the video. You can choose to download the captions file there as well.

The Bulletin can be downloaded here.

PDF Format


Strange Fruit
By: Abel Meeropol, aka Allan Lewis, copyright 1939. Published by Music Sales Corp.

"Were You There?” 
African-American Spiritual, Public Domain 

When Jesus Wept”  
Public Domain 

What Wondrous Love is This?” 
Public Domain

"Jesus Remember Me"
Jaques Berthier, © 1981, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc., Text: © 1981, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc.  This piece was used multiple times throughout the service.  A version of it comes before each 7-minute sermon and can be seen in the full video.


The service consists of seven short messages.  The themes are:

1) Jesus speaks to the Creator God
Luke 23:34
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

“I love you, too.” Sean Bell, 23.


2) Jesus speaks to the others being crucified
Luke 23:43
He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Momma! Momma! My knee. My neck. I’m through.” George Floyd, 46.

3) Jesus speaks to Mary and the Beloved Disciple
John 19:26-27
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

“Mom, I’m going to college.” – Amadou Diallo, 23


4) Jesus Cries Out to Creator God
Matthew 27:46 (also Mark 15:34)
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

5) Jesus is Thirsty
John 19:28
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”

“I can’t breath. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Byron Williams, 50.

6) It is Finished

John 19:30
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

“How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this,” Sandra Bland, 28

7) Jesus’ Last Words
Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

“I can’t breathe.” – Eric Garner, 43


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