Last week my Port Philip East colleagues, Duncan Macleod, Anneke Oppewal and I hosted a Retreat Day for about 25 ministers and lay workers from our presbytery.
We began and ended the day with Psalm 27. We offered several prayer stations along with both printed and projected versions of the Psalm.
We reflected on the imagery of Psalm 27 - light, shelter, singing, prayer, refuge, escape. We made prayers and listened to music, explored images and wrote reflections. There was space to be still and sit in God's presence. Later the three of us each spoke of practices that sustained us in life and ministry. Lots of conversation over a fabulous lunch. In the afternoon we gathered in small groups to reflect on our own sustaining practices. The day closed with a guided reflection led by Anneke.
On Sunday night I shared with the youth worker from our local church at Frankston, Hannah Dungan in leading a contemporary service which ended up being very much an all-age experience. One aim was to connect with people from the annual Somers youth camp, so we shaped the service around a Bible story from the camp - Genesis 18 where three messengers visit Abraham and Sarah, aged 99 and 90, to tell them they will have a child.
My idea was to make it experiential. So we tried to imagine Middle Eastern tribes sitting by a tent under a night sky a few thousand years ago, sharing a meal and telling stories. We set up a tent with fairy lights. I spent Saturday preparing Middle Eastern finger food. We sat people on rugs with cushions and made the meal a part of the worship.
I originally wrote this in 2010 as part of a College Holy Week Chapel Service - details here.
The aim was to involve the congregation in the narrative of the liturgy, remembering together rather than being told. The presider asks the questions ans the people respond together. It has been quite rightly suggested to me that the early part could have a stronger Christological element, but I haven't changed it yet since I've only used it once.
If you're worried about who needs to say the epiclesis prayer, the presider can always pray along with the congregation. At the College chapel, there were enough ordained ministers in the room to 'sanctify' the elements many times over! Ha. (Ah yes, let's not begin that discussion. Roddy Hamilton has a great journal article about the whole of the Eucharist being an epiclesis, which I like.)
Someone decided to call this "Reverse Communion" but that wasn't my idea. I don't actually like the title.
I'm pleased that it has been used and published both in the UK and Canada as well as used locally. Feel free to adapt, but acknowledgment is appreciated.
Photo: NCYC Yurora 2017
Why have we gathered here? We come because we have been called to live out a story What story shall we live? The story of saving love Where did this story begin? It was whispered before time began, it was sung in the melody of Creation.
Whose story is this? This story is God’s alone to tell It hums in the rivers and the trees It whispers in the skies and the seas It calls to the people of all places It speaks in our hearts, in our lives Why then should we speak of this story? This story calls our name in Creation This story claims our lives through the Cross This story shapes our future through the Spirit We are its telling in this time and this place
So tell me the story of this night, of this table The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it (taking and breaking bread) Tell me what he said and did This is my body which is broken for you Do this and remember me
Tell me what he said and did (taking and pouring cup) In the same way, he took the cup and said This is a new covenant in my blood Drink it and remember me This is our common story our deep memory, our true destiny So let it also be our story-telling, our testimony Let’s celebrate the way that grace has shaped our lives I invite you to say aloud a prayer of thanks (pause)
Hear the storytellers of all ages whisper with us Holy. holy, holy Lord God of power and might heaven and earth are full of your glory Hosanna in the highest Blessed in the one who comes in the name of the Lord Hosanna in the highest
What is our prayer on this day? Pour out your Holy Spirit on us So this everyday meal becomes an eternal feast So that our eating and drinking today unites us with Christ, whose body and blood are given for us. So we know that you live in us and that we live in you So that we live in your world knowing it is indeed yours. Living God, this is our prayer Amen.
I can't believe that I didn't blog about some of my 'bigger' worship services at Blackwood, so I'm going to make amends for that now! I think that after some of them I was too exhausted to think about writing them up.
Last year's Pentecost Service involved the congregation in making and hanging about 1200 paper birds (representing the Holy Spirit) in the sanctuary. The birds were in various shades of red, orange and yellow to symbolise flames as well.
Over several weeks we held origami sessions at morning tea between the two services. I discovered two origami whizzes in the congregation who were delighted to help teach (and each make many, many cranes). The cranes were in several different sizes, and people took home pieces of paper of their choice (the smaller ones being more difficult to make). We DID receive back some renegade colours and sizes, some of which I discreetly forgot to use. (And no matter how many times I told people how to fold the wings.... sigh.) However the participation of many people in making cranes was a vital dimension of the whole experience. It was a shared community activity.
I designed a hanging mobile of cranes. The idea was that several of these would be hung from the ceiling fans (controls gaffer-taped OFF!) so that the bird flames would be falling or rising down/up into the congregation. The remaining birds would be strung on fishing line at intervals across the room. With two data projectors at different angles there were a number of sight line issues to resolve.
God of the stillness held between our inhaled and exhaled breath the moments between meetings the gap in conversations the brooding between desire and decision the wait between uncertainty and conviction the solitary gaze the contemplative calm the pregnant pause just before new dawn and the silence of night’s dreaming Invite us into the lacuna – the space between now and next where the music of Creation finds rhythm in the respite of our souls. Serene Spirit, bring your gift of slow time whisper your holy hush your still small utterance that you might then disturb our peace. Amen.
I'm reposting a song that Tim Beale and I wrote a while ago because I'm sharing it in a short article that I've written for devoZine by the Upper Room.
This is our story, this is our song This is the dream that we depend upon Written on pages, carved in stone Rebel people become God's own Freed from oppression, captured by grace Shake off your boots, it's a holy place! Now living in exile, alien land Got a strange way, strange hope, strange plan
Gather us into your history Gather us into your song Take us along on your journey Yahweh with you we belong
You are our story, you are our song You are the One we depend upon God of the cosmos, walking the earth Jesus you came giving hope new birth Women and children, beggars they came Those on the edge you called their names Voice of forgiveness, healing, release Crying for mercy, singing for peace
Gather us into your history Gather us into your song Take us along on your journey Jesus with you we belong
Red moon, red blood, red sky Joshua tree standing oh so high Poured out Spirit, cyclone fire Sons and daughters, prophesy!
We are your story, we are your song We are the ones you depend upon Breaking the claim of the gods of our age Money and power, fashion and fame Dangerous message, whispering word Reckless compassion washing your world Called to walk in a costly way Welcome God's future into today
Gather us into your future Gather us into your song Take us along on your journey Spirit with you we belong
Gather us in, take us along Gather us in, Your story, Your song Gather us in, with you we belong Gather us in
This week we move from South Australia to Victoria where I’m taking up a five-year appointment as Presbytery Minister - Church Development in Port Phillip East Presbytery. We moved here from Victoria to SA at the start of 2003 and have been in same house in Mount Barker for 16 years, quite an achievement in ministry. Since I started working and studying within the Uniting Church in 1980, we have lived and served in SA more than any other state (including early 1980s). Our daughters have gone from primary and high school through to university and beyond. Yvonne has worked for the same early learning centre for 16 years.