Creating a Good Friday Service

March 19, 2024

We are rapidly approaching Easter, when the focus will be on the centre of human history, the cross of Christ and his resurrection. At a time when the world is tearing itself apart, and hatred and political division seem to drive people ever further apart, it is more vital than ever that we find the peace of God, reconciliation and hope in the only place they are truly to be found, in the Reconciler himself, Jesus Christ our Lord. Though on that first Good Friday everything about the death of Jesus seemed to say defeat and weakness, we look to the cross and say in faith, ‘in the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.’

As you prepare to celebrate Easter in your church, are you thinking about what you will sing. We have drawn up a playlist, with links to our online resources, which we hope offers you both familiar favourites and some new discoveries for your church to learn.

A Good Friday Playlist

A Good Friday service is unique in the church year, a time for a solemn pause to reflect and meditate on the sufferings of Christ. This playlist falls into three categories, reflecting the flow of the service – approaching the cross, the work of Christ and the victory of his cross.

Approaching the cross

Approach with awe this holiest place by Timothy Dudley-Smith.

This hymn helps to set the scene at the start of a Good Friday service, evoking the mood of Calvary with phrases such as ‘for there beneath those sombre skies the Prince of life, forsaken, dies.’ The tune serves the mood, and the strong rhyme scheme impresses these great truths on the mind.

Go to dark Gethsemane by James Montgomery

Another journey hymn, the four verbs of the first lines summon us (go, follow, climb, hasten) to engage with all that is happening, and then to learn from what we have seen. The set tune is well known from the old hymn ‘For the beauty of the earth.’

When you prayed beneath the trees by Christopher Idle.

Reflecting in the first three verses on the tree theme, this hymn follows Jesus from Gethsemane to his trial, and stumbling up the road with his deadly load to Calvary. It finishes with the final victory cry of Good Friday. Set to the traditional Scottish tune Kelvingrove.


The work of Christ

O, to see the dawn by Stuart Townend

The classic Good Friday Townend and Getty song, this beautifully captures the sombre note of reflection on the sacrifice of the cross: our ‘every bitter thought, every evil deed crowning your bloodstained brow.’

Save me O God, I sink into the depths by Jim Sayers

Based on Psalm 69, this is a Messianic interpretation of the psalmist’s sufferings, bringing out the prophetic predictions of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the betrayal of Judas.

Come, behold the wondrous mystery by Matt Boswell, Matt Papa and Michael Bleeker

In four verses this song moves us to the cross and through it to victory, as we are invited to ‘Come, behold’ and ‘See the true and better Adam, come to save the hell-bound man.’


The victory of the cross

What love my God, would bring you down to earth by  Jonny Robinson, Michael Farren, Rich Thompson

A song built on contrasts in each verse, often playing on words,  such as comparing the one who is The Way of Life with the way of death he took on Good Friday. Each chorus expresses heaven opening with the flood of God’s love to us in Christ.

I will sing of the Lamb by Stuart Townend

This may be the most undiscovered Townend song, coming from his early work, yet as strong as any of his more famous songs. It captures the sense of discovery we first have on coming to the cross, where our eyes are opened to all that Christ has achieved for us.

Hark the voice of love and mercy by Jonathan Evans

You might not think of this traditional hymn to end your Good Friday service, but it is as triumphant and uplifting as they come, repeating the triumphant cry of Jesus ‘It is finished.’ For us, Good Friday is a time not only to reflect upon the sufferings of Christ, but also to celebrate his victory over sin, the satisfaction of God by a perfect atonement.

Of course, this is just a small selection from a much bigger online catalogue. On the dashboard go to the theme ‘The Son – His suffering and death’ to see the full collection.

We have also published a separate Spotify Good Friday playlist of 20 items from Spotify’s collection which are published on our website. You can access that here: Good Friday Playlist – playlist by Praise Trust | Spotify.

We will be publishing another playlist next week of resurrection songs for Easter Sunday.

May we proclaim the cross of Jesus more urgently and eagerly than ever this Good Friday


Jim Sayers
Chairman, Praise Trust