grace this saturday online again - details on the grace web site
i wrote a communion prayer for grace on saturday...
Eucharist: Jesus and the powers
Thank you for your incredible life.
You announced a new kingdom at the margins of the world,
an offensive against the strongholds of oppression,
and the dawn of liberation.
You made a way in the wilderness.
You proclaimed good news of the kingdom,
brought healing and deliverance,
lived a life of nonviolent confrontation with the powers.
You restored social wholeness to the sick and “impure”.
You tore down the boundaries of tribe, gender, skin tone, religion, disability and ill health.
You overturned the dynamics of status and honour
to make way for the outcast Jew and alien gentile.
With you there is no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or gentile.
Patriarchy, slavery and racism have no place in your kingdom.
All are made in God’s image,
all are welcome,
all are included in your “last as first” revolution.
Almost every ruling faction in society opposed you.
Your resistance was through loving enemies,
meals with the wrong people,
refusing to live under the domination of the powers and their way of ordering life.
You chose love and not fear
pursuing kingdom practice even at the cost of death.
Ultimately they did put you to death.
You were lynched and hung on a tree.
In a great mystery and a great reversal
you overcame the powers on the cross.
Three days later you were raised from death,
a sign that the powers have been defeated,
a sign of hope,
a sign of a future kingdom when all will be well.
You shattered the powers’ reign of death in history.
When we forget, help us to remember.
When we are blind help us to see.
When we are deaf help us to hear.
When we despair and are overwhelmed send your Spirit to comfort us.
You call us to a conversion of heart,
to turn away from empire, its seductions and iniquity.
This is not a call out of the world, but into an alternative social practice,
a community of resistance and healing,
gathering in homes and around the table with you.
You have given us a meal to remember you by
a meal to remember the ending of slavery
and deliverance from the power of Pharaoh’s dream;
a meal in which you broke bread and drank wine -
your body broken for us,
your blood of a new relationship with God.
May our homes and our tables be open,
May they not have rigid boundaries.
May this table and this home today be such a place.
May we live from love and not fear.
We break bread and drink wine now to celebrate your life, death and resurrection.
And we look for the day when all slavery, all oppression and all domination is ended.
When we will be free at last
Your kingdom come
we'll post the whole service on the grace site at some point and i'll come back and post a link here. if you are interested in what is behind this take, things in the background are probably multiple but some that spring to mind:
i am adding this to the worship trick series 4 - that will be no 79 - i must try and get to 100 before it's been a decade that that series has been running!
next grace is july 11 8pm - join us on zoom or whatsapp. here's the info
Communion* by numbers @home Grace July 2020 “Wherever we are we will remember God who always goes with us”
This month Grace will be a communion by numbers. Join us on zoom or you can also follow along on whatsapp. If you’d like to take part and are not in our mailing list or whatsapp group email [email protected] and we can send you the zoom link and add you to the whatsapp group. There will be no obligation to remain - you can leave the group afterwards.
Communion by numbers is a simple idea. We have a simple structure with numbered sections led by different people and you simply follow along on zoom or whatsapp to take part.
The title comes from a prayer we have used at Grace many times over the years. It’s sort of our community prayer. We’ll conclude with that prayer together.
*This is not a Church of England communion service. It’s just communion.
this saturday grace will be very laid back. we often do some sort of retreat this time of year. so grace wil be reflective with space for some guided contemplative prayer followed by the cafe. if you want to join see below for email to get zoom info from. here's the blurb
The next Grace will be a Zoom gathering at 8pm on Saturday June 13th.
Take some to pause a while from the business of life to listen, reflect, pray, review and share.
There will be a virtual cafe afterwards.
If you would like to join us please email [email protected] and we will email you an invitation link.
a reflection/piece of liturgy i wrote for grace last night. i have been struck looking at the stories of the resurrection appearances how grief and hope are often close together, and how often god’s absence and presence are experienced in the same stories. perhaps this has something to say to us in our own experience at the moment - many of us have felt god is far away and many of us have been reassured by god’s presence.
The women arrive at the empty tomb
God is nowhere
Suddenly Jesus meets them
God is now here
Mary weeping with loss in the garden
God is nowhere
The gardener speaks her name
God is now here
The disciples afraid in a locked room
God is nowhere
Then Jesus appears
God is now here
Thomas refusing to believe
God is nowhere
He touches Jesus wounds
God is now here
The disciples fish all night without a catch
God is nowhere
“Throw your net over the right side”
God is now here
Peter shattered when the cock crows
God is nowhere
A healing conversation on the beach
God is now here
Two disciples downcast on the Emmaus Rd
God is nowhere
They recognised him in the breaking of bread
God is now here
grace is next saturday and will be available anywhere in the world rather than just ealing of course. here's the blurb...
We had planned for May Grace to be outdoors in a woodland but that isn’t going to happen for obvious reasons! So what we are suggesting is that we have a zoom gathering online at 8pm on May 9 - GODISNOWHERE Grace Open Mic.Here’s how it will work:
We’d like to invite all of you to create or make something to do with faith in the midst of lockdown. That could be an expression of the difficulty of it, of where you have found moments of grace in it, it could be to do with God’s presence or absence in it (NOWhere or NOwhere). If you need a start point the stories of the resurrection appearances contain many of these emotions and themes.
And it can be any art form - poem, prayer, photo, sound recording or whatever. We encourage you to make or pen something rather than share someone else’s art. If you don’t create anything please still come along. There’s no pressure through we hope some people will or it will be very short! Thanks to Richard Passmore for the title which he says he first saw via Pete Rollins.
If you would like to join us please email [email protected] and we will email you an invitation. We were going to post the link on the website but have been informed that is not a good way to do it and Zoom have changed their security.
It would be really helpful to know ahead of time who is participating so email to let us know and we can then compile an order and work out any technical challenges. Contributions are welcome from all ages.
After the Easter vigil people hung out for a while chatting and drinking which seemed to work well so the Grace cafe will be open at the end though you will need to provide your own drinks and snacks! If anyone wants to DJ via Facebook or instagram let us know and we can add the link.
smallfire has been completely overhauled by steve collins making photos larger and adding plenty of unseen photos too. it's beautifully done and is such a labour of love. thank you steve!
it has photos with short narrative underneath for various alternative worship communities. because of the nature of alternative worship it's so much easier to look at pictures to get a feel for it than simply read words.
i also liked that it is dedicated to nic hughes with a lovely section about him.
grace's easter vigil went well - like so many others we were feeling our way with the technology running it online and quickly worked out that our usual music background didn't work! i hope it went well for people who followed along on the hashtag #graceeastervigil2020 in either twitter or instagram. a big plus was having people join in who were in other countries! the communion prayer is here
it was really good fun having steve leach dj at the end live on facebook and it's still there if you want to have a listen. he played an amazing tune of his with the queen's speech mixed in which i loved.
as ever we invited people to create bits of content. i thought one was really worth sharing here as a worship trick. gill created a hand washing ritual in response to one of the readings. it is on the grace web site and has a prayer that goes along with the various kinds of washing. it's really lovely. i have put it on my phone so i can dig it out each time i wash my hands. anyway you might like it.
when christ dies on the cross the curtain in the temple is ripped from top to bottom. that curtain guarded the way into the place that only the priests could go. it is a sign that the religious power controlling access to god is ended. the way is open. in some mysterious way christ’s non violent resistance disarms the powers including the power of religious domination.
while in new zealand i read binding the strong man by ched myers. it is a brilliant commentary on mark’s gospel story of the life of jesus christ. i found it compelling. he sees jesus’ life as one of non violent resistance to the powers that oppress and dominate people. in the foreword to the twentieth anniversary edition hendricks describes it as nothing less than a project to rewild the church. i should have read it years ago.
there are two powers that jesus contends with - the imperial power of rome and the religious power of jerusalem.
myers tees up the narrative by saying that these two powers are highlighted in stories where people are oppressed by an evil spirit. the first is in the synagogue where an unclean spirit says to jesus ‘why are you interfering with us’? this is a pretty perceptive question because within the first few chapters of mark jesus has interfered with the way the religious world is controlled and organised by breaking laws of the sabbath, healing people, suggesting that god has come to those who the religious world deems unclean - touching lepers, eating with ‘scum’ tax collectors, touching a woman who is unclean through bleeding, blind beggars, gentiles and the list goes on. he messes with what is clean and dirty. within three chapters the heavies from jerusalem have been sent up to investigate and accuse jesus of being possessed by the devil. and so it goes on from there. jesus does not mince his words when he confronts the religious authorities about how they burden and oppress people. his stark warning to his followers is ‘beware the yeast of the pharisees’. this all eventually comes to a head in jerusalem where jesus turns the tables in the temple which is the heart of the religious ordering and system which is ripping off the poor, and while the disciples are admiring the building he says that within a generation it will be destroyed. and sure enough that is exactly what happens. as myers puts it “jesus now offers a vision of the end of the temple-based world, and the dawn of a new one in which the powers of domination have been toppled.”
the second story is where jesus crosses a lake and encounters a man who is oppressed by ‘legion’. myers says that can only be heard as a reference to roman military power by readers that somehow dominates this man’s life so that he is in chains. jesus frees him from this domination. jesus is ultimately executed by this state power. it’s hard to say how much they perceive him to be a threat. today is good friday when we remember christ’s death which was at the hands of the imperial state and the religious authorities who colluded together. but my own take is that the real anger and drive for it came from the religious authorities. it was their world that jesus threatened so much.
the opening lines in mark’s gospel are about a way - preparing a way. jesus life shows a radical alternative way. i have always found this way amazing and inspirational - i have often noticed how many people like jesus but are put off by the church. in my own clunky way i want to follow him in that way. and i have been stirred up by this notion that to follow in that way is to live in a way of non-violence, of activism, and of resistance to the powers of domination. it is a way that has at its heart a vision for a different kind of world (kingdom as jesus calls it) of peace, of cancelling debts, of love, healing and non judgement, and fairness for all that welcomes those who the powers exclude precisely because all are god’s children. god is not the preserve of the wealthy, powerful and religious.
i was thinking about these powers in relation to colonialism while i was in new zealand and i will come back to that in another post. but today i am thinking about religious powers of domination and control in the church and in particular the church of england of which i am a life long member and a lay pioneer minister.
in a previous post i suggested we need more imagination and less control especially as people seek to be creative online in how they worship and pray and do community. these are challenging times and as i said in a previous post there is a lot of good work and practice going on. but the lockdown has brought home to me just how far we stray at times from the way of christ in the church. it is the sharing of communion in particular that has vexed me this week.
jesus instituted a meal with friends where bread and wine are shared and people have done that ever since in homes and churches to remember christ. jesus life was one where he was always in trouble over meals - he ate with the wrong people who were always welcome at his table, though he usually was round theirs.
fast forward to coronavirus and the church is holding online eucharist services with guidelines that the only people who can share the bread and wine in their homes are bishops and priests. everyone else can watch apparently! so for easter day for example which is a day when all are encouraged to take communion suggested activities are:
Some bishops and priests may wish to celebrate Holy Communion in their homes.
Practising spiritual communion as this is a day on which all ought otherwise to receive Holy Communion in church.
spiritual communion is explained here - and is for situations where you can't share bread and wine. in many cases i suspect and indeed i hope that those leading the service will not have it but use the absence of sharing bread and wine to reflect on this moment of separation. and some will choose not to have services of communion which is probably a good option if you want to obey the guidelines. the idea that just the priests would have communion i find unbelievable both in itself and that it could be in print in public - i did a double take to check i was reading it right. this makes it both exlusive and a rite of exclusion! surely the obvious thing to do and what everyone will want to do and i hope will do is to share bread and wine in their own homes to remember christ. it saddens me that the church has not got the imagination to say this is healthy practice. there is a regulation in the canons of the church (scroll down to b5) that gives discretion to ministers for unusual circumstances to lead worship that is different. for example they may...
on occasions for which no provision is made... use forms of service considered suitable for those occasions and may permit another minister to use the said forms of service.
we are in such an occasion surely! so i hope ministers act anyway.
the church has a lot of regulations about communion - what prayers, who can preside, where it can take place and so on. in grace we have found these frustrating and sought permission to use other prayers and write our own which we have done over the years. we have respected having someone preside who is ordained when we meet in st mary's church as we are part of the church of england. one curious regulation is that a place needs to be authorised if it's not a consecrated building like a church. so whenever we meet in homes we regularly share bread and wine in a simple informal way usually as part of a meal and concluded those ordained should not preside because the buildings have not got the permission - i know it's nuts. bishops are likely to have had to give permission for priests to lead communion from their homes online i suspect! i have written about grace's approach in the introduction to making communion if you are interested. the church of england says on the one hand that it values creativity, that the shape and integrity of worship is what is important and not the words in themselves and we need new ways of doing things but in practice it is still extremely controlled and locked down.
the church has various justifications through sacramental theology and other clever sounding ruses. but really it is an issue of control. these are things the church has constructed, made up, nothing more and i can't help thinking they are in direct opposition or at least massively out of kilter to the way of christ. how do you get from what he did to what the church is saying at this time? it's completely baffling. beware the yeast of the pharisees. the curtain in the temple seems to have been stitched back together. the central structures of the church of england have somehow created a scenario in which there is a priestly caste who control access to god because it is only through their magic actions that people can have communion, bread and wine to remember christ. if one of them is not in your home tough. it's absurd! the religious power of domination is alive.
i refuse to collude with it. it’s power was disarmed by christ’s death on the cross. i will be happily remembering the story of christ and sharing bread and wine online with others in grace and in my own home with jenny. this is we note from the guidelines not going to be an official church of england communion. but we will be making communion. i hope there are homes and indeed vicars up and down the country who ignore the church’s guidelines on this. i get to go to various meetings in the church of england where the rhetoric is that the church is committed to mission, to lay ministry (that means people who are not ordained) and the vision of the church is to empower all of its people with a vision called ‘setting god’s people free’. how are we supposed to take that seriously?!
some years back at another time when i was bumping into the religious power of domination in the church of england in another way, i made an art installation called red tape in which i ring fenced the table with barrier tape and bound the bible in red tape and wrapped a dog collar in red tape. i couldn't help thinking about it again today...
from my experience of communion in homes over the years, a simple way to do it is to do so in a meal and share bread and wine either between courses or at the end. give space to tell the story of christ in some way and to remember his life. death and resurrection. invite participation and conversation, use one of the stories from the gospels, maybe one of the meals jesus is at. have a prayer of thanksgiving - the official church ones are online, you can find one you like from elsewhere - such as the iona community or grace, or someone can improvise one. if you improrvise it it helps to have an idea of the shape of those kinds of prayers. in our grace easter vigil we will be using a thanksgiving prayer for easter written by the st hilda community and janet morley which has really lovely words. then give some space to share and pray for one another. it's not hard!
this week the church remember's the story of the passion - jesus' last week including the last supper, his death, and then through to the resurrection on easter morning. it will be so interesting to see what people do in their homes on their own and online connecting with one another in real time through technologies or by participation in shared practices and resources shared online. i don't intend to spend the week posting links but if i see anything that grabs my attention i'll let you know or by all means leave a comment. i am sure some of the links are now broken but anything i have linked to before can be scrolled through here. my advice for what it is worth is to pick something and linger with that rather than get overwhelmed with loads of things.
lots of churches are posting regular services online with links to songs on youtube videos and downloadable childrens packs and words and liturgy on youtube, or via livestream. so if that's your thing there's lots out there to suit all sorts of tastes. people have had to go on a steep learning curve with technology in some cases but huge effort is going into that. i have seen lots that is really well done. it's not the kind of thing i normally go to so it's not the kind oif thing i will be doing this week either. but for lots of people it's what they know and love.
in grace we tend to go for one thing in holy week and put some effort into that. this year we are doing the saturday night easter vigil which seems really fitting this year though we had decided to do that before the virus. there are two ways you can participate - it will be live on zoom - we'll post a link and expect that to be our more regular people or those in the grace diaspora but i think you can fit 100 people in zoom so we'll see who shows up. then secondly there will be a hashtag #GraceEasterVigil2020 . you can jump onto a flow by following that hashtag in twitter or instagram or the grace facebook page. the vigil is in four parts and we'll be doing all four of those between 10pm and midnight. but of course those links will stay online so you can visit them when you like and you could just choose the parts that connect. if you choose to follow that way we'd love you to participate by posting using that hashtag too rather than just consuming. we will post some more info on this on the grace web site later in the week so do have a look back there. it will include a few items to gather so you are prepared for example.
two other things have caught my attention. one is that tess ward has reworked a whole easter retreat and will be posting all sorts through the week. tess is an amazing writer who has a gift for crafting lovely liturgy and prayers so i have high expectations for that. see her blog for all the info you need
and then there is an easter vigil called rumours of hope that looks like it will be good - it sounds as though it will have a range of pieces of content to fuel your own prayer and reflection through the evening and night. i like it that is a church of england thing that is not just a broadcast of a service but something more imaginative and artful. i don't actually know anything about the context i should add. i got invited to be involved but as grace was already committed could not do both though i am sure there can be some mutual hashtag sharing.
anyway whatever you do i hope the story comes alive for you this week. i hope to get round to revisiting communion online but we'll see how the week goes as i am trying to do some writing and not get overly distracted!
i am adding this as a worship trick as it feels these are all in the spirit of those even though i haven't added many for a while.
following up on the last post what i was really saying is we need more imagination!i thought it worth following up with a few further thoughts and links reflecting on what happens when church is online.
this is actually not a very new conversation though it is a new experience for many. i was absolutely delighted to see that tallskinnykiwi has re-emerged online. he is someone who has pioneered, experimented and blogged about this for maybe 25 years? anyway he has started a series on transcoding church. after an intro the first post is zoombombing in historical perspective. he points out that radio broadcasting was innovative and with enforced separation in WW2 broadcasting services became a big thing. fast forward to new digital media and it's less about broadcasting and much more participative (or at least that's the theory!). i love this thought he has
the greater amount of interaction from participants, the greater the loss of control from those hosting the event.
on the subject of control i have seen what i consider to be absurd conversations online about communion and people sharing bread and wine in their own homes and what the rules might be. of course you can! get on with it - i wonder sometimes what on earth the church thinks it is doing. how has it morphed into this system of control? i think jesus was quizzed by religious authorities about his own practice which threatened their system of control and they asked 'by what authority do you do these things?' to which he gave a genius answer. so if someone says to you 'by what authority do you do these things?' you're in a good tradition! i think i'll come back to some ideas on this in a later post but the table in your own home is a wonderful location for it.
someone else who has reflected and published on faith, religion and spirituality online is heidi campbell so it was great to see an article pop up summarising her findings about building religious community and doing church online. it's well worth a read.
pete phillips who runs codec has also posted an article the church (has gone) online which is really helpful and a good reminder again that this is not that new actually.
steve taylor was celebrating the launch of first expressions last night. sadly i couldn’t join him as it was in new zealand (though i am hoping to see him next week as i am off on some travels!). first expressions is a reflection on some of the first wave of new expressions of church that back then were either called alternative worship or emerging church. the language of fresh expressions had not yet landed. steve researched these back when he was doing his phd in 2001. he then revisited the communities in 2013 and met with those involved. i have a personal interest as grace is one of the communities in the research, one of the first expressions, and steve came and had a meal and conversation with a group of us as part of that.
it’s so interesting and such a gift to have someone external take the time to research and write and reflect back to you on what they observe and notice in the sense making they do of what was really you and a bunch of others making some stuff up as you went along. steve posits that the birthing and becoming back then has contributed so richly to the wider life and mission of the church, to the becoming of the church in the west. steve is a creative thinker, writer, and theologian who is close to the ground as someone involved in mission practice and someone who also can navigate the theory. this is what makes it have such a ring of authenticity.
he frames the whole book through a lens of innovation and the mission of god. i really like innovation as a frame. i have blogged about others writing on innovation and mission - it seems to be a growing conversation. steve takes four approaches to innovation - growth, ecology, indigenous and craft. this immediately begins to open up a broader ecclesiology than the usual narrow ‘gathered and grow’ one that seems to dominate (not that there is anything wrong with gathering or growing per se), what he calls a woven ecclesiology. in conversation with tim nash of nomad i recently explored the wider ecosystem of church life and think this broadening of the landscape helps see that trying new things, innovating, making fresh connections, building communities, sharing ideas and so on seeds all sorts of things in the wider environment. in the natural world it is entirely normal that things grow and age and die and seed other things. i can’t help wondering if a big part of our church challenge is there is not enough permission for dying as well as birthing because we have so many buildings we just seem to have to keep going for ever!!!
steve researches 10 first expressions. half of them no longer exist. steve explores this in detail as he too founded a fresh expression that no longer exists as a gathered community. and it’s lovely to read research that is able to show the immense value in birthing, trying and becoming and how it contributes richly to the wider church producing lots of good in and of itself. it’s hard to know what impacts what but these first expressions have been followed by an amazing amount of innovation and life through fresh expressions and so on. steve takes an organisational look with an interview with rowan williams, a reflection on fresh expressions and how that has helped institutional change, and also how mission is organised. i found the last part very interesting as i work for a mission organisation. it is interesting how challenging the way that first expressions structure and organise is for institutions to marry with their institutional ways ways of being and organising. steve comes back to this in a further chapter where he uses the eucharist as an example of the relationship between innovation and order and how existing governance structures might need to be broken and remade.
there are so many layers and ideas and reflections in the book. this is really just a hasty blog post to say the book’s out and it’s really worth a read and conversation with others. i think it’s valuable for those of us who were involved at whatever stage, there’s loads to learn for those who have pioneered and are pioneering since, and there is plenty for the wider church in mission to ponder. steve concludes by suggesting that ecclesial innovation is the ants in the pants of the body of christ!
Ecclesial innovation is the ants in the pants of the body of Christ. Ecclesial innovation enables a becoming as one, apostolic, holy and catholic church. It makes visible the reality that is the conversion of the Spirit in individuals, communities and organisational structures. Hence innovation has value as it makes the church be the church, awakening the essentiality of becoming as one, apostolic, holy and catholic church. Such is the mission of God through first expressions.
big thanks to steve for taking the time to do the research and offer this into the wider conversation. and it was a reminder to me of how much fun it has been to be part of a first expression grace, and my life since has been committed to enabling that innovation in mission to be encouraged and catalysed and multiplied elsewhere. i guess i have never thought of myself as the ants in the pants but it's probably fairly accurate :) . there’s lots of hope but also a long way to go, and a lot more becoming to be done.
st mary's in ealing is a beautiful space and it was perfect for lasers, smoke and incense bathing the building in light as we celebrated a eucharist of light. it included a wander round to gaze on the amazing installations of light.
in the same way you 'break bread' we also broke light with some glow sticks!
it all looked very beautiful so i took some photos of course though it was a bit challenging in the low light! i have added an album on flickr - grace eucharist of light
we return the favour and will be visiting beyond on may 3 to lead an evening for them in brighton.
i am really looking forward to the next grace. we have invited martin poole and beyond to come and lead it (beyond of advent beach hut fame in brighton). they will be leading a eucharist of light. here's the blurb
Light is a metaphor for life. Going from dark to light reminds us of the journey from death to life, from ignorance to knowledge, from sin to grace, from bad to good.
Advent and Epiphany remind us of these themes and as we journey from Winter towards the light and warmth of Spring and Summer, Beyond combines these themes with the symbolic action of breaking bread and sharing wine and adds an opportunity to experience the wonder of light as we ask God to lighten our darkness and enlighten our lives.
Guest curation by Beyond who are a creative worship community based in Brighton. Cafe afterwards as usual.
alastair mcintosh says that the triune basis for community is soil, soul and society - community with the earth or place, community with one another and community with spirit/self/god. i really like this as a simple framework. johnny sertin first introduced me to it and they have made it the basis of what they are up to in earlsfield.
anyway all that to say that at grace last night we started the year exploring those themes with a space for each. soul was the labyrinth, and then two other spaces with interactive installations. i loved it and think we're bound to pick those themes up further. in classic foolhardy new year fashion i have decided to try and blog with a bit more intent this year. life is so busy that it is a genuine challenge but i'll start as i mean to go on... so i'll add this as a worship trick and have uploaded the descriptions and a photo of each below in case any of you want to chew over the themes or nick them for you own use.
there were four activities in this space and a poem to reflect on. the four activities are below and the poem was the very thought by gerard kelly
The earth, our home, one tiny planet spinning in space in the vastness of the universe is extraordinary with its wonderful creatures, plants, landscapes, and habitats. To gaze at the ocean’s horizon, to walk in a forest and listen to birdsong, to climb a mountain, to sleep under a starry sky, to hold a newborn baby’s tiny fingers in a hand, to enjoy a freshly cooked meal with friends, all evoke wonder and thankfulness. What a gift life is, what a gift it is to be alive! The Christian story is fundamentally a story about the world, the heavens and the earth that have been made good and entrusted to us as gift to look after with love, tenderness and care.
1. Put your hands in the soil
The Soil by David Benjamin Blower played on loop (I love that tune)
Put your hands in the soil
And feel the groan
and can you feel the joy?
And be still
Take a moment to be still.
You are human made in God’s image
Adam was the first human - the word adam means ‘of the soil’
You are made from dirt, from soil, from the stuff of the earth
We are earthy
Place your hands in the soil and be still
Feel the groan of the earth in our times and pray
Feel the joy of the earth in all its beauty and give thanks
And be still
2. Lament for the heat
Have word soil spelled in candles in soil
Te world is too hot. Global temperature is rising due to emissions. The last IPCC report suggested there are 12 years left in which to change and limit warming to 1.5 degrees which, as we are experiencing, is already having dramatic impact. David Wallace Wells in his remarkable book which has over 6 pages of footnotes citing the evidence to back up his writing, outlines the cascades taking place that will only accelerate as we reach that temperature and beyond. He opens the book with the ominous words “It is worse, much worse, than you think”. We all have seen the images of fires in Australia, a sign of our times if there ever was one.
Blow out a candle as a prayer for the world’s fires and warming
We have sinned against you and against the earth
It is too hot
Lord have mercy on us and on the soil.
Cool the earth.
3. What a waste
Compost is like magic. Our waste is thrown in the dark with other waste. Over time it rots and becomes beautiful rich soil that feeds new plants in the next season.
Take some food waste
What feels like waste in your life
What are you throwing away
Offer it to God with whom nothing is wasted.
4. Drop in the Ocean
The challenges of the world seem so big that it can paralyse us. But as Greta Thunberg says - no one is too small to make a difference. Or as Harry and Chris say
They say it’s just a drop in the ocean
As if that’s a reason to stop
But maybe they’ve forgotten the ocean
Is literally made up of drops
Take a drop and add it to the water
Soil is about connection and community with the land, the earth itself. Our first challenge is to become lovers of the earth, the land, the home in which we live. We are all too easily disconnected from the land. How can you nurture being a lover of the earth, of the land, of the soil?
Write on a drop something you could do that helps you to be a lover of the earth, to be closer to the soil.
Write on a drop something you could do that lightens your footprint on the earth and its resources
To be human is to be related. Even God is community!
Add yourself to the web of relationships
Write your name on a card and then connect it to others with a piece of string. Then think about your connections to others. perhaps friends, perhaps groups you belong to whether local or far away. Write them on other pieces of card and build up the web.
Grace is our faith community.
What is it about the community that helps you, that nourishes you? Give thanks to God!
Are there ways you would like to participate?
Are there gifts you have to offer in the year ahead?
Do you ever feel alone?
Do you know others who are alone?
Is there someone you could show friendship to?
Hold them in prayer.
One of Grace’s ethos words is engage
How will you engage in society locally this year?
How will you build community?
this was the labyrinth - i just took a photo on a phone before we started which isn't great. no doubt someone else will have a better one. but you get the idea. we pretty much reused the words from the first labyrinth we ever did in 1999 by the then live on planet earth! here they are...
Take off your shoes...
The labyrinth is a walking meditation. Take off your shoes, pause at the start and then slowly follow the path. There is one path to the centre and then you follow the same path back out. There are others on the journey. Take your time. If you have to wait that is a good thing probably. There is no rush! Taking care and paying attention to your soul, your true self, the you of you is important soul work. Use this journey to give your soul some time. Soul is also about your relationship to God - take time to be with God in this space. Below are some prompts for the journey in, the centre and the journey out. But if you prefer to simply walk in silence and ignore those prompts then that is also good.
The inward journey:
As you move towards the centre of the labyrinth begin by confessing and letting go of things that hinder your relationship with God. This stage is also about shedding images or projections of yourself so that you can be real with God. Let go of what other people think you should be, their expectations of you, their projections. As you journey, empty yourself, peel away the layers - grow by subtraction. Prepare your inner self - the you of you - to meet with God.
Think of hurtful things people have done or said to you. Imagine a symbol or a word to describe this....
Jesus said, if you let go of the hurtful things people do to you - so God will also let go of the hurtful things you do. Think carefully. Are you willing to 'let go' of the things people have done or said to you?
Think of things you do - patterns of behaving that you know are harmful to your relationship with God, others, yourself or planet Earth. Imagine a symbol or word that symbolises those things.
If you are honest with yourself and God, if you really want to let go of these things... "If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1v9) God will help you to move on. Do you want to take it with you? Or do you want to let it go? If you want to let it go open your hands as a sign of letting it go and move on.
The centre of the labyrinth:
At the centre of the labyrinth is that point where we symbolically meet with God. Please spend some time here. Relax. Enjoy God's presence. Meditate on God. Commune with God.
The outward journey:
As you journey back out of the labyrinth take your encounter with God with you. Reflect on how this encounter might affect or change you. John said that God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood - think about how you might allow God to be made flesh in your life and in your neighbourhood.
What boundaries do you need to pass through?
Which of your abilities are you neglecting?
Look around and notice. Even though they may be at different stages, others are on this journey too.
As you approach the end of the labyrinth think about God who has been the host for this part of your journey. If God asked you to fill in a guest book - what would your comments be?
i have added the photos to a flickr album grace labyrinth - soul + soil + society
i loved the soil section the most - we need much more engagement with the earth, the planet, soil, place, our home and lots of soulful liturgies, prayers, songs, spirituality.
join us at grace on saturday january 11th and walk a labyrinth. if you have not walked a labyrinth before it is a lovely prayerful space surrounded by candlelight and ambient tunes. you meditate by walking. it’s a perfect way to start the new year reflecting on what has gone before giving thanks and letting go. it’s a space to be still, to be with god, to place yourself into god's care. and then it’s a journey into the decade that lies ahead with all of its possibility, challenge and adventure. there will be a cafe afterwards as ever with space to chill and catch up.
this saturday is midvent (ok that’s something we made up)! but it’s our advent grace which will be reflective and with photos related to various traditional advent readings. here’s the blurb. do come along…
Join us for a mid-Advent meditation, featuring photos by members of Grace that have been inspired by the season’s traditional Bible texts. We will make our own Advent calendars, that we can continue to fill with images up to Christmas.
Everyone is welcome to stay for mulled wine in the cafe afterwards.
there is a fabulous installation at the moment at vinyl factory by uva called other spaces. i have loved all the things of theirs i have seen (chorus, onedotzero, speed of light, momentum). this exhibition has three installations. one is a reworking of momentum, the second a lazer depth of field experience that reminded me of perspective drawings at school (though somewhat cooler), and the third the great animal orchestra. you can read about it here. and i have a few photos here though after taking a couple was asked not to so there are not many.
the great animal orchestra in some ways is a fitting follow on to my previous post. it is a sort of celebration at the wonder of the world but also a lament. bernie krause has recorded animal sounds in various landscapes. these are played in a dark room with led screens making up three walls. in front of the screens is a pool of dark water which reflects the projections in mesmerising fashion. the projections are digital graphs or spectograms of the sounds. as the sound goes up and down so the lines respond. when a creature's noise first appears the name appears on the screen and slowly moves round the wall. the whole thing lasts about an hour. it's a gorgeous experience (apart from when you either step in the pool or put your hand in it because you don't realise it's there!). the lament side of it is one track before and after where the sound is first played at two points recorded in time. the second is after the landscape has been wiped out or eroded in some way so the absence of animal voices is an immense loss that is brought into the room in its absence.
the space itself is an like an alternative worship dream! we have got lazy at grace but we used to create three walls to project onto to be surrounded by projected images and have beanbags in the centre as a space for reflection, with ambient music playing. we still do create that kind of space to some degree but this was so well done. i'd love to have use of a space like that. it was a very fitting space to visit during extinction rebellion. and just as poignant as the planetary mass. go and see it if you can - it's free and runs until december 8th.
i would put it down as a worship trick but i'm just not sure anyone else could pull it off in the same way!
there is a second exhibition at the other side of the vinyl factory which is not quite as amazing but does include an installation by doug aitken - one of my all time favourite artists - so it's worth it for that piece called new era. i love his video installations.
i am in two minds as to whether to put this out there but last saturday with extinction rebeliion in full flow and a focus on the planet for grace we gathered round the table. some members had been in to join in the action - sadly i couldn't make it due to work. so we gathered to pray for our world, to remember it is god's world and lament the ways it is being pushed to its limits. i have a recording of the planetary mass from the nine o clock service. i can't remember where i got it from but i have always loved it and play it to students as an example of creative liturgy. it must be from the early nineties. anyway i transcribed it which i have never done and we read through it together and shared bread and wine round the table. it was without the visuals and drama but poignant and powerful. if anyone is reading who was involved in its creation thank you - and i hope it's ok to put this on my blog. but here is the liturgy and i have added tracks we listened to. the soil by david benjamin blower was perfect for passing round bread and wine and we brought soil and water to the table along with bread and wine.
i'd love to hear of what other laments and liturgies anyone else is creating or using.
Welcome and Opening Prayer
Listen to planetary mass 0-3:09
The planetary mass is our celebration of life and our ritual of celebration and repentance on behalf of our culture. Here we seek to mourn the destruction of so much life on our planet and to cultivate a compassion that feels in our own flesh the wounds inflicted on others and on our planet and to awaken to the incredible awe and beauty of our existence with God. Whether humanity has a future or whether it is going to become extinct in the next few centuries depends on our will to live and that means our absolute will for our one indivisible life. We have got used to death, at least to the death of other creatures and other people and to get used to death is the beginning of freezing into lifelessness itself. So the essential thing is to affirm life, the life of other creatures, the life of other people, our own lives.
The Lord is here
His Spirit is with us
Breathe in the Holy Spirit…
Breathe in life
And out fear
And out numbness
And out death
Wisdom let us attend. From the book of Deuteronomy:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death,
blessing and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
Read Declaration of Rebellion from This is Not A Drill
Creator God the Source of all life we confess our sin to you.
We confess where we have turned away from you and where in ignorance we have turned our back on the earth and on each other.
We confess that as we have wanted more and more we have dominated and exploited your creation.
And we admit that we are responsible for abusing the riches of our home, that we are complicit in crucifying you by polluting the air and the sea, by destroying the forests, by starving the people of the two-thirds world, and by robbing the future generations of life not yet here, our children and grandchildren.
God of all creation we turn away from our addiction
We turn back to you
Our Source and our Hope
We repent and we turn back to you
This ritual is a symbol of the worship already happening in creation. The whole universe is invited to this intimate event, the feasting on Christ. The church here has no walls - we worship with plants, planets, animals, and angels.
The day before Christ suffered he took bread in sacred hands and looking up to heaven he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying ‘take eat this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. In the same way after supper he took the cup and gave thanks. He gave it to them saying ‘drink this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this to recall me, to remember me.’
Creator and soul of the cosmos
The universe shines with your life Lord
You’re everything we desire.
We give our lives to you
You created everything that lives
Through Christ you are the Source
We believe and trust in you
Our desire is to let go of death and give ourselves to the vision of life your son Jesus believed in to the point of his own death
We commit ourselves to him
Spirit of life, integrity and truth who raised our brother from death and gives us hope beyond death here now
You are our strength and compassion
We believe and trust in you
God of life we bring wine to the table
Touch this now to become a life blood transfusion.
Christ our life we bring bread to the table to become your precious flesh
In our global village we offer it in the presence of those who starve.
Eternal source we offer water:
The overwhelming swell of the oceans unique to this planet.
Creator God we thank you for the gift of soil:
The foundation of the forest, the sign of our mortality
Creator God we offer ourselves along with these elements of bread and wine and join with the voice of the whole universe crying out for life and healing.
Father hear our prayer through Jesus Christ.
We can no longer see ourselves as separate from nature.
We are all given a chance to participate in the story of the universe.
We’re all in it together - people, particles and God.
Through Christ hope is built into the very fabric of space time and matter.
So now there’s hope.
Now contains the possibility of resurrection.
So let’s come to the table now and let’s reconnect with Christ,
hope of the cosmos,
the power to renew us and change our lives now.
[share bread and wine
play The Soil by David Benjamin Blower during distribution]
Let us pray together now for the universal church and the world.
Christ our hope at this critical time lead us into facing our denial.
As the church, as a culture wake us up to an awareness of the responsibility and opportunities we now have.
We honour the wisdom gained by centuries of spiritual and artistic endeavour through the experience of our mystics and the lives and deaths of all our saints.
We pray for an open church that celebrates the coming together of all faith and wisdom traditions, the sciences and the arts.
We pray for a new time of hope, mystery and promise as we bring all these riches to bear on our global crisis.
God the Mother and Father of all creation we pray that a new way of living emerges out of the present reductionist system that’s robbed the world of its spirit and turned human beings into objects and nature into a machine.
We pray for a culture that allows us to live in harmony with all creation and stops crippling the earth’s diversity.
We pray that your Spirit of passionate life that raised Christ from the dead bursts now into all people in our earth community.
Creator God we pray that we will wake up to a new consciousness.
Watch Greta Thurbnberg and George Monbiot video
Listen to Numbers by Radiohead
May Holy Wisdom whose voice calls all to the feast
Whose hand draws the whole cosmic community of life to her table,
preserve you in eternal life.
And the blessing of God Creator, Liberator and Holy Spirit be amongst you and stay with you always
The mass has ended
Go in peace
[All liturgy is from The Planetary Mass by the Nine O Clock Service]