Good Friday Ritual of the Nails — UK

Photo by Ben Ulrich

This service involves each member of the congregation through actions.  Each worshipper receives a large nail upon arrival and is invited to interact with their nail at different points in the service. Following the reading from John 19 and Luke 23, they are invited to hold the nail for a personal reflection.  Later they are invited to come forward, to approach the cross, and place or drop their nail into one of the containers at the ‘foot of the cross.’  The option of anointing with oil is included.


Place four metal buckets beside the cross.  If a large cross has been carried in as part of the ritual, place a container at each extreme of the cross. Bowls or baskets will suffice, but the resounding clang of metal-on-metal is emotive.

If anointing, be prepared with small bowls of oil.

Holding the Nail

Reading:  John 19:16-19 & Luke 23:34, 43 

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus.  And carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two criminals, one on either side, with Jesus between them, one on his right and one on his left.

Then Jesus said, ‘Creator’, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’  One of the criminals beside Jesus said to him, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into* your realm.’ Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’    


Forgive us for our thoughtless and hurtful actions, and our unwillingness to recognize your presence in our midst.
Silent Reflection & Prayer
Spirit of promise and wholeness,
                  We reach out to you in prayer.


Take the NAIL you were given at the beginning of worship and hold it.
As you feel it between your fingers, reflect on when you have felt hurt or humiliation. Feel God’s presence with you as you live with that hurt.
Silent Reflection & Prayer

Now reflect for a moment when you have stood aside and observed someone wrongly treated, or when you have caused hurt and humiliation, when you have wrongly treated someone.  In this moment of silence, turn toward the Spirit Courage which can empower us to stand with those who are wrongly treated.  Where you have acted wrongly, receive forgiveness and the courage to take action toward reconciliation.
Silent Reflection & Praye

Musical Option

Start playing (instrumental) or singing “Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”

Approaching the Cross

On this darkest of days, we remember the death of Jesus of Nazareth.  Confessing our participation today in the sin of this world, we come forward to the cross.  We are invited to place our fears and judgments, our guilt and our worries, at the foot of the cross.  We are promised forgiveness and hope.  As we prepare to approach the cross with our burdens and hopes, join me in the responsive reading printed in your Order of Service.

Litany   (source unknown)

We bring to the cross…

our awareness of violence in ourselves and the world.

We bring to the cross…
        our fears that can sour into hate.
We bring to the cross…
        our judgment of the beliefs of others.
In the cross, we see an end,
        but also a doorway to a new beginning with God

 Words about dismissal

The last part of this today’s ritual takes us to a place of deep reflection and silence.  We will approach the cross, place our nails in the buckets/containers, receive a blessing of oil, for those who wish, and go outside in silence.  Please refrain from speaking until you are outside the building. 

 Approaching the CrossNails & Anointing (optional)

Come.   Leave the old behind and prepare to be born anew.
When you are ready, bring your nail forward, releasing your hurts and your guilt to God, placing them at the foot of the cross.
Drop a nail loudly into a container.
If anointing, be prepared with small bowls of oil, and include these words of invitation:

Come, receive the oil of blessing with a mark on your hand, that your hands and heart might do no violence, but become the hands and heart of Love in our world, spreading peace and justice for all.
Come singing and depart in silence, as the disciples slipped quietly away from the sorrowful scene of crucifixion.

As we come forward, we will sing, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? And then From Heaven you came, helpless babe. [or other familiar hymns appropriate to the setting.]

Guidelines for Anointing:

Stand to the side, so as not to crowd the area around the cross.
Touch the thumb to the oil and then to the back of the hand saying:

May your hands be instruments of peace,
the hands of Love in our world.

Click here to share this post: