the middle-class bubble"
gracelands, Cardiff, Wales UK
services allow for different moods and different frames of mind. Thereís
a lot of stillness, and you can just respond to whatís going on in your
own way. Thatís very different to normal church. Thereís no one telling
you how you should be responding..."
Thatís a description
of graceland, from one of itís founder members, Mike Barnett. Graceland
is an "alternative worship" group based in Cardiff.
Their services make
use of contemporary music and extracts from modern writers as well as
creative, multisensory ways of praying. They draw heavily on the culture
of those who attend, as well as from a range of traditions within Christianity.
A key feature of the services is the use of stillness and silence.
Rosemary Allen, one
of the members of the group describes the ethos as follows, "What we have
is a desire to do something that is linked to our every day life rather
than going into a middle class cultural bubble on Sundays and forgetting
the rest of the week. Many of our services touch on urban issues/social
issues, not surprising as we live in a capital city. We take things very
slowly and try to give people time and space to come to their own interpretations
rather than imposing something on them. We use the Bible, sometimes as
quotations, but on other occasions we do a meditation based on it instead
- often trying to come at things from a different angle and related to
our own experience."
The service was started
in 1996 by a group of friends. Key influences were, the Late, Late Service
in Glasgow, the Nine OíClock Service, in Sheffield and the Third Sunday
Service in Bristol, (now called Resonance) The group had a desire to do
something similar in their own area.
One Sunday a month
is the service, "city prayers", another Sunday is a music night, currently
called "tchac!". This is held in a cafe, and features live music or DJs,
with visual images projected behind them. The evening also has a variety
of other things, such as pub quizzes, or various competitions, which are
normally well received. The focus is on people getting to know each other.
On two Tuesdays a month, graceland meet as "home base". This happens in
a home and the focus is on praying for each other and for various wider
needs. It also involves discussions, based on the bible or on topical
issues. Some of the services take a theme or a bible passage as a starting
point, such as "Travelling", "The Ten Commandments", or "Machines". Others
are more liturgical, using material from the Iona community, among others.
For a taste of
a graceland service, read the following description of a service on the
theme of "Desire"
People are (mostly)
sitting on the floor round a blanket in the middle of a room. The blanket
is laid with food, baskets and other items, as if for a picnic. The
solemn, slightly edgy atmosphere is set by music, which includes tracks
from "100 Windows" by Massive Attack.
After a short gap
the service begins with a welcome and prayers are read on the theme
of desire. After the prayers people are encouraged to explore what lies
on the blanket. There are pictures from magazines, for example, lingerie
adverts, with the pictures of the models cut out and discarded, leaving
the pages with the cut out blank in the middle. There is also a picture
of Mel Gibson with the slightly ironic title "What every woman wants?"
There is also a large picnic basket with crockery and cutlery, cups
A bowl of apples
is also there. One has a bite taken from it.
In another corner
there are other "objects of desire" represented by pictures of goods
taken from catalogues. There are bottles of nail varnish, guest soaps
and make up. In a third corner there are items reflecting more positive
aspects of desire. There are piles of books and software to do with
careers, job applications and so on.
People wander around
looking at the objects, maybe picking them up, tasting or smelling them.
Some are drawn to one area, others to something else. Some read extracts
from the books. After a while people gather around the blanket once
more, for a period of silence. This is broken by everyone reading together
a version of Psalms 42-43,
"As the deer
pants for the waters, so my soul longs after you, you alone are my
hearts desire and I long to worship you..."
Another period of
silence is followed by 3 voices reading bible verses about desire. These
are interspersed with short extracts read from other books, and prayers.
Some extracts are given here, but more were used in the actual service.
You hear, O
LORD , the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen
to their cry, Ps 10 v17
If you do what
is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right,
sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must
master it." Gen 4 v 7
Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. Song of Solomon
for female company and the ability of women to forgive, to care about
hurts and their readiness to laugh and be amused.... Women, he thought,
had so many more ways to connect themselves to the world - children,
families, friends.... Sometimes he'd see a woman watching him as he
walked from a Denny's rest room back to the counter, or in a grocery
store, tending to squawking kids and errant grocery carts. What were
they offering? A meal and a dose of love to get him to the next way
station? Women became to him portals back into a better place he'd
always seem to have overlooked." (from "Miss Wyoming" by Douglas Copeland)
not covet your neighbour's wife. You shall not set your desire on
your neighbour's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his
ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour." Deut 5
My days have
passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart.
Job 17 v 11
"We live alone,
we die alone; the frustration of our lives in this world - all our
broken relationships, our betrayals, our murders - are because we
know we shall never be understood by one another. It is our grief,
the 'human tragedy' that, knowing this, we still so badly want to
be understood and accepted. The classic faith statement is that it
is only in God that we shall find the intimate relationship we long
for, the absolute mutuality we crave. " (From "Seven Words for the
21st Century", By Helen Cunliffe) I denied myself nothing my eyes
desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in
all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Eccles 2 v
I belong to
my lover, and his desire is for me. - Song of Solomon 7 v 10
But each one
is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1 v 14
are restless until they find their rest in You - St Augustine
The longings that
people have, fulfilled or not, our desire for a purpose in life, and
how we strive to achieve that, our desire for God, and our desire to
serve him are all touched upon.
Towards the end
of the service, people were invited to drop dissolving Vitamin C tablets
into bowls of water, as a symbol of bringing their desires, good or
bad, to God and letting them lead us to him. During this time, "Wash
my Soul" by Tricky was played as a backing track.
A final prayer was
worship of women or their designer The world or its destroyer Whether
it comes from that ancient place that we call soul Or simply the spinal
cortex Whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage Or dove like
desire... The smoke goes upward To God... Or something you replace
God with ... Usually yourself." (Taken from "Soul Music: Selections
From the Book of Psalms", by Bono from U2)
The service ends
gently to the sound of "Fragile Happiness" by the Super Furry Animals.
Afterwards, people start to chat, and share some of the picnic together.
Some take the opportunity to read the Bible passages and extracts of
literature used earlier, which have been placed on the blanket.
exists to share stories, thoughts, ideas and other tasty things
from the emerging church - and we want yours!
your story to us: