Saturday, May 15, 2010

a pentecost journal

Here’s an idea … why not every church start a Pentecost journal. This would be read every year at Pentecost. Then, after a time of silence for reflection, updates to the journal would be invited. People would name how the Spirit has been active among them in the year gone. These would be typed up, and added to the journal.

Which would be read again next year.

This would honour the Spirit as alive today, honour the Spirit as alive in history, appreciate the Spirit as diverse and creative in the life of the community, develop skills of discernment and just be plain interesting.

It is an idea that has some echoes to the Advent journals I initiated at Opawa. It emerged in my Grow and go Mission-shaped community class today. We were talking about innovation (one of the 9 National Church Life Survey indicators of a healthy church) and to make this practical, the class were introduced to a number of ways to practise creative brainstorming. In the process, as groups laughed and talked, a number of random linkages were made …

Posted by steve at 10:41 PM

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

cleansing rituals

A few details changed, to preserve anonymity

She phoned the church, a stranger, a local, asking for a house blessing. So I popped around, with my Bible and my usual house blessing service. “What’s been happening?” I ask.

“We’ve moved recently. The ashes (of my dead relatives) aren’t happy. My partner and I are fighting heaps and we’ve been burgaled. Twice. Still got the footprints. Come and see.”

We head into the house. Sprawled on the couch are two teenagers. Seeing us, they straighten and pull the hoodie down low.

Suddenly the words of my usual house blessing service seem inappropriate. Time to jettison the words and use the symbols.

I light a candle: “This is a source of light. In the Bible, God is the light of the world. Light drives out darkness. So we are going to ask God’s light to be present and drive out darkness.”

I ask for a bowl of water: “This is a symbol of cleansing. It’s where we wash and get clean. Lets start by getting clean. One, by one, lets wash our hands. Silently, lets say sorry for how we’ve acted in this place, the fights we’ve caused.”

And so, one by one, we stoop to the Bible, using the water as a vessel by which sins might be confess. In the flicker of candle and the splashing of water, it’s starting to feel like holy ground.

Which room shall we start with, I ask? And with bowl in hand, we move from room to room. “What needs to happen here,” we ask each other. At each room, hands are dipped in the bowl and water is sprinkled. And the words and the water, together become prayers for this house, of hope and of confession.

It’s starting to feel like our holy ground, not just my holy ground. The teenagers follow. Watching.

We head outside. The ashes are causing problems. “They’re not happy with how much we’re fighting.”

Fascinating. At this point, the ashes are actually pointing to what might be called “sin”. I have no way to process this theologically. Can ashes talk? How do they talk? But I don’t think that a theological discussion is what’s needed.

We talk to God about what the ashes are saying: “But we’re glad God, that these ashes are reminding us of how to behave. And we want to listen, to start doing right. That’s why we washed our hands.” Again, I’m not sure of the theology, but I’m trusting the Spirit for the words.

And finally the teenagers speak. The cars, they nod. Outside on the street.

There’s lots of talk in my city about boy racers and how bad they are. Its easy to create a category called “boy racers” and place all of fears about the future of our children. Yet here I am, being asked to “do” something to the car of a boy racer.

And so we walk into the street. We ask for safety and wise decisions. The teenagers grin. And nod. It’s still feeling like our holy ground. I’m not sure whether they’ll remember on Friday night. Does it matter? Surely prayer is to God, not to these racers?

The boys stay with their car and I return inside. I’m alone with the woman and together we look at the candle.

I tell her that I’m about to blow out the candle. When I do, the candle light will go out. But God’s light need not go out in this house. God’s light can live in our hearts. Yes sure, we can blow that light in our hearts out. But simply say sorry, and invite the light back, and it always will.

She nods. And grins. Now this really is holy ground. We’ve named God in this house. The gospel has been enacted – the water of confession as the grace of cleansing. We’ve confessed sin and together we’ve talked to God – with words and actions.

I’m looking forward to returning in a few weeks, grabbing a cup of tea, talking more with this family, about what it means to walk in the light and wash in forgiveness. Such is the power of symbols, that connect human participation with the Biblical story.

Posted by steve at 03:15 PM

Friday, April 10, 2009

urban Easter prayer

This Easter, we are gathering with our neighbouring Baptist church. They are struggling and this Easter could literally be a story of death for them. Equally, we are talking with them about partnership and some new forms of church, so this Easter could equally be a story of life.

There’s not much point talking if we first can’t worship together. So Easter Friday is at their place and Easter Sunday at ours, with both pastoral teams planning both services together and sharing bits at each place.

As part of that, we wanted some way to pray in our shared life and our shared mission. So we grabbed a wooden cross and took photos of it at various geographic landmarks between the two buildings – construction site, new Police station, fastfood outlet, well-known development currently growing weeds, local pub facing council housing and a sports stadium. Six slides became a visual backdrop – good-friday-urban-prayermed (click to move through each slide)

Some hard work followed, research into the lives, history and narratives that shape each place and then the seeking to weave these narratives into the events of Easter Thursday and Friday, in the form of a urban Easter prayer. This is the result – our Easter prayer as we consider the cross in our Christ’s church city streets.

A: Jesus, On Easter Thursday,
you prayed for us, you sweated drops of blood for your church
prepared yourself to be dragged from prison to passion, from trial to tribulation

B: Jesus, On Easter Friday
you carried your cross,
you walked through your city streets,
you were willing to love your neighbours, criminals to your left, crucifiers to your right

A: Jesus, This Easter, show us what it means to pray,
to weep for your church and Christ’s church
to carry our cross, to walk our city streets,
to love our neighbours, our communities from Colombo Street to Brougham Village

B: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours,
shopkeepers building right beside us at Beckenham Baptist
A: And so we remember our neighbours
we pray God’s peace on those who shop and those who build
we pray wisdom on those who plan our cities
and smooth process for those who seek consent
Help us live your cross in our communities this Easter

B: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
the new police station being built
A: And so we remember our neighbours
we pray integrity for our police
we pray restoration for those criminals behind bars
B: We pray redemption for their victims,
grace for those who suffer. And justice in our courts,
Help us walk your cross with our neighbours this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours. McDonalds and so many fast food outlets stretched down Colombo St
B: And so we pray for those who flip burgers and fry fries
for those seeking work in a credit crunch
for those who fear the loss of their daily bread
A: Lord, forgive us our fast food, instant takeway attitudes
Jesus, may our neighbours find You as their daily bread this Easter

B: Jesus, (click), these are our neighbours, developers at Sydenham Central
David Henderson who risked. And the Council who resurrected
Help us show your cross to our neighbours, rich and poor, this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
those who live in council housing in Brougham Village
B: We pray protection for the vulnerable
safety for the easy led, deliverance for those addicted
freedom for those enslaved by debt and habit
Help us carry your cross to our neighbours, rich and poor, this Easter

A: Jesus, (click) these are our neighbours
the Canterbury crowds, who walk to AMI Stadium,
cheering for winners, jeering for losers
B: Jesus help us look at the crowds as you looked at the crowds,
To feel your compassion for the harrassed and helpless
To weep for your city this Easter,

Posted by steve at 09:56 AM

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do baptists have a communion liturgy?

“Do baptists have a way of doing communion?” I was asked in passing this morning. A few weeks ago, I spent time with the children in the church, talking with them about communion. It was part of a church wide process, in which we took time to explore communion, it’s why’s and wherefore’s. Hence the question, as to whether baptists have a way of doing communion.

My answer is yes, Baptist’s do have a communion liturgy. Each church is different, but there are some repeated patterns. Here’s my take on the “liturgy.”

explain – an explanation, often more devotional in format, in which the meaning of communion is explained.

pray – often 2 people, one for the bread, and one for the cup, pray.

invite – some indication is given of who can participate.

distribute – the elements are passed around. This tends to be individualistic and passive, with bread on trays and juice in little cups.

eat and drink – time is spent, usually individually, thinking upon the meaning of the cup.

thank – often a prayer of thanks.

A Baptist liturgy is not based on a whole lot of words. But the above is based on a clear theology. The explanation tends to focus on the events of the Last supper. This does make it “thin” (too thin in my opinion, missing Incarnation, resurrection, Spirit and eschatology), but it is a way of telling the story. The two people who pray are rarely clergy, because the priesthood of all believers is encouraged. Equally, going forward is viewed with suspicion, because of the danger of affirming a “priest” as essential in what is an equal table.

My journey has pushed me toward what I would call a bapti-can liturgy. It seeks to honour the richness of being baptist: a theology of community, a unease with ritual and words for the sake of words, an expectation of “communion” with God. But it adds in a greater theological breadth (weaving in themes of Incarnation, resurrection, Spirit and eschatology) in the explanation, ensures the prayer invokes the Spirit to make Jesus real, encourages people to come forward to receive from each other to enhance participation and community contact, distribution which includes the breaking of one loaf and the placing of pieces of that loaf on the trays alongside those small squares, visuals and creativity to provide multiple layers as people eat and drink, a final thanks which often includes the Lords Prayer as a way of expressing our unity with each other and the church world wide.

So yes, Baptists do have a communion liturgy.

Posted by steve at 05:30 PM

Sunday, October 02, 2005

bread for the journey

326197_1771.jpg Here’s a liturgy, titled “bread for the journey” I wrote for communion today, reflecting on bread in light of a variety of scriptures …


Posted by steve at 03:41 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ritual to mark new beginnings

This is a family ritual to mark a new beginning and to pray for fresh life.

Take a packet of seeds, preferably fast growing flowers, especially if you have young children. Remind the kids of the new beginnings they are experiencing.

Together clear the earth, ideally in a place that you will pass often as a family. Give seeds to everyone in the family. Plant them together as an act of prayer, that new life will emerge and that fresh colour will spring forth.

Posted by steve at 09:43 PM

Sunday, February 15, 2004

thin spaces

It was the baptism of Kelli today. She is a young woman, an unchurched atheist, until about 6 months ago. She has a strong environmental heart and it has been a joy to see her grow and unfurl over the last months. She was presented with a bone carving of a koru – a Maori symbol of new life and growth.


She was baptised at the beach. The new minister of Graceway, Mark Barnard, talked about the Celtic notion of thin spaces, where the gap between heaven and earth is no more. The sun shone and the waves lapped. Some fish even jumped. Various Graceway kids could not resist the lure of the water. It was indeed a thin space.


Posted by steve at 09:18 PM

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

coffee whore finds hope


On my way to work, nice vibe, good art on walls.

I am tasting their takeaway as I type. And this local coffee guide gives me even more hope.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Thursday, January 15, 2004

[grid blog :: ritual]

grid blogging is a voluntary commitment to blog on a shared theme. ashley was the originator of the concept, and has suggested ritual for january 15.

Here is a story of a Life Ritual
‘”I have a ritual,’ she said, pointing to her earings. Having graduated and working in a very difficult situation she decided to leave work and take a mundane job to pay the bills. It was a job she didn’t enjoy but was totally powerless to change. During this time her best friend developed terminal cancer. This was a difficult time, visiting, watching the pain of husband and young family. The best friend talked, insisting that she take control to change things. She inspired to take a Masters degree which in turn has lead to this present new job, a commissioning agent for a successful publishing company.

After my best friends death, the husband gave me a pair of very special diamond earings he had bought for her. I treasure these. Every time I face the challenge of comissioning a new book or meeting a new client, I wear these earings. I draw inspiration from my friend’s dedication to life being lived to the full. My friend still inspires me on a daily basis to excel and so I intentionally wear these beautiful earings as a spiritual committment to work to my full potential. By this I am honouring her memory, encouraging her family to press on and I trust inspiring you.”

In turn I am offering you her inspiration. Today create a new ritual for yourself. Chose a piece of jewellery. It may already have deep significance for you. It does not need to be expensive. What counts is your intentionality as you put it on to commit to exploring your spiritual potential to the full.

:: Excerpt from Olive Drane’s forthcoming book Life Rituals by BRF. In it Olive looks across the breadth of life from the everyday patterns that give rhythm and meaning to the once in a life time experiences whether ecstatic or devastating.

Posted by steve at 10:25 AM