Find out more about grace in this section
Nailing down definitions is a difficult task - in some ways who we are and what we are about is best captured in telling our story(ies). Grace is shaped by the people in it at any time and as such changes and moves on in response to an interplay between the ideas of the group, the Christian tradition, what we sense God is calling us to at that time, and the shifts in the culture around us. We have identified three things that we are about below.
Community - Grace is a Christian alternative worship community/network. It has varying degrees of importance/significance/levels of commitment for the people involved. Some are involved in other churches and Grace is a supplement, some are involved in St Mary's and Grace is part of that, for some Grace is their church. There are also the complexities of how people's partners and children fit in or are part of Grace. But it is the people and the network of friendships/relationships that makes Grace what it is.
Worship - Grace is about worship in ways and forms that we can relate to. It is an authentic offering of worship to God out of who we are, not something we target other people with. Implicit in this is the idea that if we produce worship that we relate to, we will be able to invite friends. It's pretty clear from our discussions that creating worship has been the major area of activity. This is what we do and have done well over the years.
Mission - A large part of our mission has been resourcing/sparking the imagination of the wider church in the UK and round the world about alternative worship through web sites, publishing resources, Greenbelt, taking services elsewhere, and offering hospitality to visitors. A lot of energy has gone on creating worship. We hope the changes to the life of grace will open up other possibilities for mission - evangelism locally, engaging in justice issues, taking the art/media/spirituality spaces we produce into the community locally rather than expecting people to come to us.
a few members of the church were just desperately waiting for something new to happen! I was bored, bored, bored with standard evangelical stuff. I had been leading young peoples' groups merely as an excuse to get out of church services.
The catalyst came with a curate, Mike Starkey. Someone with enough clout to get things done and a bit of time but also in a hurry. The fact that curates have such short times in a post was an important factor because it stopped both of us Mikes deciding to wait and enter into long and meaningful dialogue with the PCC etc etc. We just had to do it.
I was interested anyway. I had been to the Nine O'clock Service and their previous incarnations and had read with interest some of the stuff written by Graham Cray. As young peoples’ work co-ordinator I had had to analyse 'All God’s Children' from the Church of England's General Synod, and I was becoming increasingly concerned at the huge drop off in church attendance by young people.
But perhaps more than that it was a self-centered act. I knew that if things didn’t change for me there was a good chance that the reality chasm between my life and my church would become so big that one side would win (and I didn’t reckon it would be 'Songs of Fellowship').
Grace 1.0 1993-95
Mike Starkey approached me initially in the summer of 1993). Perhaps because of discussions we'd had about St. Mary's being a bit too straight, perhaps because he knew I’d been to NOS and was interested in what they did, or because I had a large record collection, or perhaps just because I insisted in wearing hats in church and was a pain in the ass.
He had already broached the idea of trying an ‘alternative worship’ event with the then vicar and had received a great deal of support. I was dead keen and together we talked about other possible people. One guy because he understood PAs and sound, a woman who played the flute well and another guy who was unconventional and had interesting opinions on most things. My wife Jill was also recruited to play keyboard.
We decided not to hang about but to plan a series of services, two each month, and see if anyone came. We had no budget and decided this was generally a good thing. A day conference with Graham Cray at the Greenhouse in 1992 and another with Paul Roberts in 1993 had convinced us that big plans and big budgets were not the way to go - a better approach might be to keep it small and manageable and produce services that you’d like to take your friends to. A few planning meetings, some exceedingly poor music rehearsals (we had decided to write our own music and had a guitar, a flute, a keyboard and a £60 drum machine) and a lot of excitement later and we were ready to go.
On Sunday 7 November 1993 the first Grace service took place. It started when everyone who had promised to come had arrived - about 35 people in total! Dave Tomlinson was guest speaker, on the subject of 'Grace'. The service contained many elements still used by Grace today - ‘homemade’ music, visuals and liturgy; plenty of ambient and chilled out music to accompany readings and prayers and a sense of freedom and space to explore God in different ways.
It was brilliant. The room was crap, poor lights, terrible sound and total lack of musical genius but I knew something had been born. Church was no longer something that happened to me but something I could take responsibility for. There didn’t need to be a conflict between the rest of the week and Sunday. I was proud of my church for the first time since I had been a child watching my dad preach!!! The second service had a comic, Milton Jones, as its star turn and we arranged the Polygon as a comedy club (and tried to write worship songs about humour). When Elaine Storkey came as guest speaker we created a 'love grotto'.
Planning these services opened our eyes to some truths about God which we’d forgotten or ignored over the years. God accepts us because he’s decided to, it’s got nothing to do with ‘deserving’ his love. He knows what we’re like and what we will be like. There is nothing that can keep God from accepting us. The grace of God, this unconditional love, frees us from the fear of failure as we try to express our belief in a loving God in ways that we find relevant and real.
In the summer of 1995 Mike Starkey left for a new job. At one of the last services that ‘term’ (an outdoor service that we held inside because of the crap weather) I had been introduced to Jonny Baker by the vicar. In fact we had embraced as part of the service, something which I know Jonny thoroughly enjoyed and still thinks about. By this time I was suffering from total burn out. From the five original members, three had left the church or were just about to and one more wanted to step down from being involved. We had a break. We’d run out of energy and ideas and Grace had a holiday.
Grace returned in January 1996, in a monthly format which was easier to manage. A new group of people had emerged to help Mike. Jonny and Jenny Baker brought creative worship talents honed through years of youthwork experience. Jonny's high profile and wide connections in British youthwork, and his access to a recording studio and publishing outlet, would have a huge impact on Grace's visibility in the years to come. Photography teacher Dave Holme brought his slide collection, artistic talents, knowledge of Catholic and Celtic liturgies, his wife, four children, and an old VW bus to carry things around in. Mark Waddington brought video and creative skills from his work as a creative producer for the BBC. James Quartley produced proper flyers featuring a new Grace logo by Abundant designer Nic Hughes.
Abundant was a Christian nightclub organisation in London co-run by Jonny's brother Steve, and many of the Abundant crowd came to Grace, especially when the two shared a weekend. Numbers were averaging over 60 at services, occasionally hitting 100. Grace was now part of a vibrant young Christian scene at that time in London, which ranged from other alternative worship groups such as Epicentre and Holy Joes through to the creative parts of evangelical churches and organisations, all seeking engagement with contemporary culture, with many of the connections running through Abundant.
Grace began to be noticed. It appeared in Arena magazine ["echoes of chill-out ambience"], and on TV at Christmas 1996, as one programme in Channel 4's 'God in the House' contemporary worship series. This provoked the following piece, in Mixmag January 1997 issue:
TV to screen 'rave style' christmas services
Channel 4 are broadcasting a series of Christian rave services over the festive period, seemingly aimed at clubbers. Entitled 'God in the House', the programmes feature worshippers getting down to a range of dance music including techno and ambient, and claim "funky Christian services did not end with the Chris Brain Nine O'clock Service scandal. in fact, Chris Brain's services marked the beginning of a vibrant new movement." The programmes run at 12.30pm from December 24th to the 30th.
Unbelievably, the final programme, subtitled 'Grace', describes itself as a 'chill-out after-hours service, and ideal way to end a hectic weekend,' and compares itself to Café del Mar in Ibiza.
In March 1997 the album 'Grace' was released, featuring songs written or adapted by Jonny Baker and Jon Birch for Grace, along with "Images for Worship', a video of Grace visuals and featuring a brief clip of Grace itself.
So here we are in February 1997. Grace services take place regularly in Ealing and we are releasing an album of our tunes and a video of our visuals. We offer them as a resource. Grace really is homespun, not slick. It doesn't happen because of technology [the PA, projectors and TVs are all borrowed!]. Like lots of similar services around the country, it happens because a group have found a space to reimagine worship and want to make it happen. Anyone can do it... our hope is that these tunes and visuals will be a help to new groups and to those already doing stuff, and that they may spark more new music, visuals and liturgies.
We are pleased that we are still part of St. Mary's church and form one of its congregations. Grace has meant that the dissatisfaction has ben replaced by hope, hope that wins through when it gets really tough and it seems that no-one has any time, energy or ideas for the next service.
[Jonny Baker, from the sleevenotes of the 'Grace' album]
As part of this mission to resource the wider church, Grace began to do 'guest appearances' at youthwork conferences and in other churches, hoping to spark people's imaginations about reimagining worship. At Greenbelt 1997 [the year of the mud] Grace staged five services, complete with all electrical devices, in a marquee, which was an experience not to be lightly repeated. For the next few years there would be a recurring joke about buying a tour bus and going on the road permanently.
Meanwhile in Ealing, Adam Baxter turned up in the second half of 96, liked what he saw and wondered how to get involved. This resulted in him turning up at service and saying "I've made Grace a website...". The first site mimicked the flyer for the services that started 1997.
And in November Live On Planet Earth introduced Grace to their Labyrinth service - which was to become a regular feature and bear surprising fruit three years hence.
In 1998 we began to explore the Eucharist, as a missing part of our liturgical menu and a vital Christian tradition that we hadn't yet engaged with. After an inaugural café-style version we held a eucharist service on the fourth Sunday of every month, called firstname.lastname@example.org. This lasted for a couple of years until lack of heating in the church and a development in our understanding caused us to relocate it to people's homes as a ritual meal called Gracelet. As a spin-off from our explorations we created the mainstage eucharist for Greenbelt 1999, also available as the 'Eucharist' album.
In May 1999 we ran a service for 500 young people in Southwark Cathedral, as part of the then-Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Time Of Our Lives' Millennium youth event. During the afternoon soundcheck we were told we should be "thrown in the river and drowned" by an irate tourist who considered our music sacrilegious. Fortunately our final offering was better received.
From 1998 to 2000 Steve Collins produced a termly Grace zine, rounding up interesting bits of service material for republication.
During 1998-99 an attempt was made to create a series of alternative worship events for the Millennium, involving all the London groups. As part of this series Ana Draper of Live On Planet Earth and Clara Swinson of Epicentre wanted to stage a labyrinth service in St. Paul's Cathedral. The rest of the series failed to materialise, but their persistence with St. Paul's was rewarded by the offer of the south transept, for a week in March 2000! An organising committee was formed that included Steve Collins and Jonny Baker of Grace, and other Grace members were involved in the production and running of the labyrinth along with people from other alt worship groups. The unexpected success of the event led to a cathedral tour with Youth for Christ in 2001-02, big-selling publishing spin-offs and events in America, Australia and various other countries, and a memorable staging at Greenbelt 2000 when we had to lock the doors on the final afternoon to control the numbers.
All these activities were creating a high profile for Grace. We were discovering the power of the internet, which allows small fringe groups to have as big a voice as large institutions, and which allows individuals to have as big a voice as groups. We had always wanted to share our resources and discoveries with the wider church, as others had shared with us, and the internet opened up new ways of sharing without some of the constraints of permissions, finances and contracts. The zine material and other liturgical pieces appeared on the Grace website. Steve Collins started the smallfire.org website in 2000 to publish his photos of alt worship events, not least Grace, followed by his personal site smallritual.org. The labyrinth website labyrinth.org.uk appeared in 2001, and the alt worship directory site alternativeworship.org in 2002. Jonny Baker began his blog in 2002, followed by Steve in 2003. Proost began to sell only through the website. The Grace website and emailing list became our chief means of publicity.
However, behind all this the numbers of people coming to Grace collapsed from mid-98 onwards, for no particular reason that we could ever discern. It seems likely that some of our regulars moved on in life, the novelty wore off for others, and some had been inspired to make their own church projects. It was sometimes disheartening, when only a handful came to a service we had worked hard on for a month. We never knew how much or how little to provide. We did a Passover service for 60, and 10 turned up so we all had to eat a lot of boiled eggs. One one occasion in 2000 only one person came. As it happened, the thing we were doing turned out not to work, so perhaps it was as well.
But Grace had become an object of curiosity around the world to those interested in [what was now being called] the emerging church, through the photos on smallfire.org, through the labyrinth, and the blogosphere. The people who did turn up to Grace were from anywhere and everywhere. We began to joke about who had come furthest to a Grace service - often people from Australia and New Zealand, many of whom had met members of Grace through discussions online and were now travelling the world researching the emerging church. There was the phenomenon of the Danish youthworkers, who would turn up twenty at a time until we were sure we had met every young Christian in Denmark! And then there were visitors from other places in Britain, lay and clergy, wanting to experience alternative worship, wondering if they could do it themselves.
Someone - maybe Kester Brewin - coined the term 'donut' at this time, to describe a typical emerging church predicament in the internet age - impressive media presence and resources, all the appearances of professionalism and success, all generated by very few people - loads of tasty stuff but [almost] nothing in the middle. We embraced our unexpected global mission as a blessing - but it created strains. At times there were more 'tourists' than locals. Grace members could find it disturbing, when their worship was subject to semi-detached scrutiny rather than genuine participation. There was no continuity of congregation from one service to the next. The service was effectively a showcase, put on by the team for whoever else might turn up on the night. The planning group was often just two or three people, risking burnout or banality.
We knew we had to build our community. One of the first steps was to move the main service to Saturday night from September 2001, so that people could hang out longer, without feeling that they had to rush off because of work/school in the morning. To facilitate the hanging-out we added a cafe after the service, building on some experiments we'd done with cafe-format worship. And after all, some of our visitors had come a long way and needed food and drink before they went back! The prevalence of red wine as the cafe drink is a deliberate nod to the eucharist.
The move to Saturday was a success. Congregational numbers recovered to average 30 to 40 from 2003 onwards, even passing 50 on occasions. In some senses Grace's tenth anniversary in November 2003 marks a new start. After 18 months in the church halls we were back in a spectacularly restored church - a beautiful environment with sophisticated lighting, a new sound system, and movable seating to make new possibilities. There was no need to hide the building in darkness behind muslin screens any more. The restored church had neither carpet nor kneelers, so we bought giant floorcushions for informal seating. The technology had moved on too, the slide projectors, TVs and Minidiscs of old replaced by video projectors, laptops and ipods.
We had always considered Grace to be fragile and vulnerable to closure at short notice for whatever reason. Having reached our tenth birthday, and with our name and logo now enamelled permanently on the new church signboards, we began to revise our assumptions and think about some longer-term planning. Our inclusion in the Church of England's 'Mission-Shaped Church' report of 2004 marked the official acceptance and encouragement of church experiments like Grace. We had been challenged by Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost to think about becoming more missional in the local community. Many groups in the emerging church are exploring monasticism in a search for ways to sustain Christian community in an unbelieving society. The idea of the monastic 'rule' by which a community lives, prompted us to explore our own core values to see what kind of 'rule' might work for Grace. We came up with an 'ethos', a short and long list of Grace values - maybe aspirational in part, but stating them openly helps us to take conscious steps towards realising them. The headlines of the short list became our new guiding slogan for the next few years - engage [outward/missional action], participate [openness to new inputs to Grace], create - and a fourth word, risk, which kept surfacing in our discussions.
In thinking about community and mission, we realised that up to now the only way for newcomers to get involved with Grace was through planning the service. Our weekly planning meetings were also doing the job of community and social gatherings, which meant the actual planning process was inefficient. We knew that if we wanted to be more missional and grow new things we had to free up some time and energy. So from autumn 2005 we restructured. The planning meeting became monthly, concerned with the overall direction of the community rather than the next service. Individual services are now 'curated' by a volunteer who brings together a team, organises planning meetings, ensures things happen, gives feedback and publishes any resulting resources. A curator can also pull in one-off contributions from outside the core community, or from people who don't want to get involved in worship planning on a regular basis.
Gracelet has come back into the church as a small quiet service, deliberately short and simple, so that we can spend the rest of the evening in the pub across the road building community. We try to ensure an open social event or meal every month, and there is a book group which meets every couple of weeks or so. Members are encouraged to seek involvement in outside groups, such as local photography or art societies, charitable and sporting organisations, or to consider what they already do as an extension of the Grace community.
The short list:
Create - Grace values creativity
Participate - Worship should not be a 'show' or just 'led from the front'. Grace aims to minimise the separation between those leading and the "congregation" through interaction and opportunities to contribute. The same is true of other areas of Grace.
Engage - Grace wants to maintain an outward focus by engaging with everyday life and connecting with culture. Grace offers hospitality and supports members of the community/ network in their own areas of engagement.
Risk - Grace gives itself permission to push its own edges, take risks, not be afraid to fail, think outside the Grace box, try new things, reinvent Grace
The long list:
Creativity - as above
Participation - as above
Risk taking/experimental - as above
Holistic Christian faith - life isn't split into sacred and secular. We expect to encounter God in all areas of life and culture and hence those aspects are likely to inform and be part of our worship and other activities
Minimal exclusion - Grace is shaped by the people that are involved. It's an open door, all contributions and people are welcome. We recognise that Grace is different to other groups and other churches so It won't be to everyone's taste - some will self exclude.
Consensus - everyone is to a degree constrained by being part of a wider community, but the way we plan is to all bring ideas/contributions. At times this may take courage and it requires a level of sensitivity to other people who are perhaps less confident in bringing ideas.Our ideas are a gift offered to God and the community. We make decisions together.
Low permission threshold - we are not into controlling what people do. We want to encourage involvement without things being policed.
Freedom of speech - sometimes there are hidden issues in Grace whether because of personal power or gender. Grace values listening and speech - in other words we wanat to be honest, and listen to each other.
Hospitality - to one another, to visitors, to the wider church
Outward impulse - a growing aspiration of Grace is to include other things than developing creative worship as part of who we are.
High quality - Grace understands that how worship and other activities are presented affect how they are received. We endeavour to produce events and items that are of a high quality of presentation and accessible style.
We envisage the following as being the basic (loose) structure of the life of Grace for the next season.
A Grace weekend in the summer to reflect annually on where Grace is headed, dream new ideas, and agree the direction/vision for the next year. This is open to anyone. Dates for 2009 yet to be decided.
Grace worship service monthly. The broad themes for these are agreed in advance either through planning meetings or the weekend with someone to take the lead/curating role for each service. That person then pulls together a small creative team which is open to anyone. Some services might have 2/3 people planning, some might have 5/6. That group take responsibility for creating that grace.
Gracelet monthly. Lead role for Gracelet will be taken by one person. Gracelet may tie in with the monthly Grace theme if appropriate. It often has more of a prayer focus.
Grace meal/social monthly
Planning meeting monthly. An opportunity for everyone to input into planning the next service for the curator and team to work from, plus anything else that needs talking about.
Other stuff We used to put all our Grace energies into planning worship. But have since realised this was ok for a season but there was other stuff we wanted to put energy into. This has been things like running a stand at the London mind body spirit festival, meeting in 2s or 3s for prayer and support, a knitting group, a book group, an allotment, campaiging against sex trafficking, joining other community groups in Ealing and doing stuff with them. Anyone can take the initiative to start or join in something and see what grows. The planning meetings or the cafe after grace are the best places to share ideas.
Grace facilitation team (2 or 3 people) A small team is be trusted to serve Grace by making sure decisions made by the group actually happen and keeping communication flowing. Currently Mike, Jen and Jonny are doing this. This team is reviewed each year at either the weekend away or September meeting.
Grace web site The Grace web site and e-mail will be a key way of staying in touch with Grace. So make sure you bookmark the site and join the e-mail list.
Grace is about adding a new dimension to worship, engaging the mind and the senses in an encounter between God and ourselves.
By combining ancient and freshly created rituals, liturgy, music and visuals we experiment to find new connections between our worship and our everyday lives.
With the Grace and Gracelet services we get the chance both to create fresh vital worship and become friends in a community to support the creativity.
But the freedom of creativity is addictive so we don't stop there, we also work on other projects, such as the Labyrinth or events for Greenbelt, or support each other in other ventures in the wider alt worship movement.
The monthly Grace service is experimental and hence rarely the same twice. We don't work to a fixed structure, giving us the opportunity to create a space, atmosphere and service suitable to the theme that we have chosen.
Walking through the door you'll probably find soft lighting, candles, TVs and projections showing words and images. Together these define the space we are using.
Alongside the visuals will be chilled-out music shaping the atmosphere. First time round this might all seem a little unusual. If so, grab a cushion (we usually clear the pews out of the way) and feel free to just sit, or lie down, and take it all in.
Both the visuals and music connect with our lives outside of Grace. We are all used to a soundtrack in our lives, from the TV or radio in the background, to muzak in lifts, to moments of silence. The music we use forms part of our soundtrack, creating a vibe of contemplation, excitement, peace whatever is appropriate. As we use contemporary music you might recognise some of the tracks, your CD collection may even overlap with ours.
The visuals are often complementary to the other parts of the service: more than wallpaper, less intrusive than an advert, hopefully they help make connections that may be missed otherwise.
Beyond the general styling the service is less predictable. There may be things to look at, touch and do, a chance to wander around and explore, write things down or simply sit or lie still. Meditation,
discussions, readings and prayers may be said, written or read.
Just don't expect a sermon. The closest you'll get is a guest speaker but that won't just be a one way activity, there will be a chance to ask questions.
To round off Grace there's often drinks and nibbles, a chance to chat and chill.
Although the most obvious part of Grace is the styling, the experiment goes much further. It's an event which questions what a church service can be, what kind of things it can contain, what kind of issues can be
explored and what kind of questions can be asked.
Grace is an event that's different every time, but without the formalities or subtle pressures often associated with church.
Gracelet is a simple intimate service with some or all of worship, prayer, sharing, liturgy, bread and wine, ritual. Expect less technology and effort in the set up.
Some of the excitement of Grace, for us, is the feeling of what next? our journey keeps giving us new challenges and inspiration to work with. you can join us on the journey or just watch this space to see where we
Over the past few months the Grace community has been thinking about hospitality. We've run three services on the hospitality theme, read a book together, discussed and chatted. And we've written a short report, that you can download as a PDF below.
We started thinking that we need to be more hospitable, and have begun to understand that hospitality must become part of the fabric of our community life. Our thinking has led us to a list of actions. Some of them we do already, others are vague ideas. So the list is very much a work in progress...
1. Maintain a calendar of regular social events, and publicise them beyond the community via the web site and email list. Strike a balance between socials in peoples’ houses and socials held in public space.
2. Expand the list of entry points to the community, especially ‘easy’ points.
3. Reflect on the group identity of Grace. What unspoken aspects of our life do we consider central to who we are? How could we be more explicit about these things, especially to newcomers?
4. Include a ‘how to get involved’ piece in the newsletter and on the website from time to time.
5. Publicise planning meetings in the newsletter and on the website.
6. Publicise who is curating the service next month, so that people can contact the curator if they want to join the planning team.
7. Run a ‘service from scratch’ day.
8. Tell the story(ies) of Grace in a pub.
9. Offer hospitality to migrant workers and international students in Ealing.
10. Complete a ‘History of Grace’ on the website.
But don't just look at this list, read the report below.
Grace Curation Practical Guidelines
[These notes were written as a guide for the person tasked with leading a small team to pull together a grace - we call this role curation]
1.Facilitation of planning meetings
We usually have two planning meetings set aside for planning a service. Sometimes it is less if it is a simple structure. The first meeting is usually a free flowing brainstorm, drawing out ideas and inspiration for the theme. The second one is the time when the ideas are knocked into shape for a service and responsibilities delegated for the various components. The role of curator is to chair both of these meetings and keep them focused and on track. It is also worth doing some thinking for both ahead of time to have things to throw in to the mix for the first meeting and maybe some notions or ideas of how this might take shape before the second. Part of the meeting role is either taking notes on the discussion and order of service or asking someone else to and then e-mailing them round the group.
2. Reflection on emerging direction and content between meetings
After the brainstorm sometimes there is a clear idea for a service that is going to be easy to pull together. But other times the discussion may not have produced too many concrete ideas. In the latter case the curator should take the initiative to think what might help nudge the process on a bit before the second meeting. This could be e-mailing round some thoughts for discussion before the second meeting. Or it might be finding a few new ideas to throw into the mix, or suggesting a liturgical framework or an idea of a genre of service using stations, a café format and so on.
3. Ensuring distillation of service order
It is crucial that by the end of the second meeting there is an order of service with names allocated for tasks. This must be circulated soon after the meeting. As curator it is your role to fill the gaps - the order is sometimes less than complete!
4. Ensuring allocation of tasks
There are several areas of tasks.
Tasks for the service order - hopefully most tasks for producing art/stations/prayers/liturgy/video etc will have been agreed at the second planning meeting. But it may be that there were gaps and you need to ensure that those gaps are filled. This may include asking people who were not present at the meeting.
Audio - somebody needs to be at Grace who knows how to run the sound. Your role as curator is to check that someone is there who can set this up (assuming there is audio required). You will also need to check that the music or songs required are able to be sourced.
Visual - This might involve drapes, slide proctors, TVs, data projectors, video mixer, laptops. These aren't all necessary but your role as curator is to help decide which of these are required and how they will be used in the space and who will set them up and run them.
Cafe - ensure that some one has agreed to get food for the cafe and set it up and run it (assuming there is to be one).
Welcoming people - this is something that sometimes gets overlooked especially if setting up gets behind and there is a general sense of panic. But it is important that you ask someone to welcome people at the door. And if setting up is behind so that the service is going to start late, let people know over the microphone so that they know what is happening. At the end of the service someone should give a notice to invite people to stay for the cafe.
5. Mailing round of service order
Once the order of service is planned e-mail it round. You should ideally e-mail round the brainstorm notes and then the service order after meetings one and two.
6. Checking that people are doing their tasks, have necessary help/support to deliver
Usually everyone does their tasks and creates the content and art they have agreed to do but if there are tasks that are more complex these are the things to check are happening ok.
7. Arranging cover or alternatives if someone can't deliver
If it transpires that someone is ill, unable to be at Grace, or just too busy to do what was planned, you need to rework the order of service - this might mean finding someone else to do the task or it might be finding or getting someone else to find something to replace whatever it was.
8. Ensure forthcoming service is advertised
There are four usual ways we advertise services: a) e-mail the grace mailing list. It is helpful if you can write one or two sentences to send that describe or intrigue people about the service. b)put the next service on the front page of the web site. Again a few sentences or something intriguing or a visual image help in this. c) if appropriate e-mail St Mary's asking them to include it in the news letter. There is only any point in doing this if you can do it after the first planning meeting. It's too late after the second. d) encourage members of Grace to plug it to friends and in any of their avenues of communication.
9. Oversight of setting up
On the day it is your role to have thought about how the space will be and oversee the setting up process. In my experience some of this is improvised on the day which is fine. If there are particular items that are not always there (e.g. bread and wine and cup and plate if there is communion) you need to ensure that someone is bringing those. It is also worth checking who is around to help set up and clear up. There have been occasions when very few people are there to set up. It is always easier if you check in advance.
10. Collecting service material afterwards for publication on website
Please collect any bits and pieces from the service for the web site.
11. Collecting feedback about the service [from team or congregation] and reporting to team afterwards
We usually reflect on the service at a meeting. You can lead that or if you prefer e-mail round for feedback.
These notes are meant to be a guideline to ensure the bases are covered. But curation is an art we are all learning so there are probably gaps in the notes and you may have other creative ways of facilitating the process via other communication means etc. So don't let the notes hold you back. There may also be certain services that require much more planning and a different kind of process.
The monthly Grace worship service tends to be big, planned by a team, and have plenty of creative effort put into it, and it takes a while to set up and take down. Gracelet began because we wanted to have more than one worship service a month, but given the size of the community it had to be something that didn't require the same level of effort to set up and run or we would all be exhausted! So it was agreed one person would lead a simple, prayer focused service.
It's been a good space for experimentation, and for different people to lead who might not have the experience or confidence to lead a Grace. For a season it was in people’s homes but it is currently at St Mary’s.
The format has varied widely over the years, but since June 2012 Gracelet has had a simple fixed liturgy, with a small space in the middle for an individual contribution. The emphasis is on quiet reflection and community prayer. We felt that community prayer in particular needed a space set aside for it, as it so easily gets crowded out by other activities.
Numbers at Gracelet are small, there is a level of personal sharing, and no 'special effects', so it isn't an appropriate service to come to if you are a touring group or studying creative worship - better to go to the main Grace service. However individuals who want to meet or pray with us as a community are very welcome.
In the church, using the central benches around the altar [if it is there]. Removal of the altar is optional. Benches can be moved inward if the space feels too large.
One or three candles to be placed on the altar or in the centre of the space, unlit at first.
The congregation can be given the liturgy on a sheet of paper, or the main projector screen can be used. There is a connection for a laptop at the front of the church as well as at the control desk.
For some sections there are alternatives marked a, b or c. The service leader can use different combinations eg to suit a particular theme. Words in bold are spoken by all.
Leader welcomes the congregation.
Possible seasonal opening words:
Advent – When the Lord comes, he will bring to light things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.
Epiphany – Jesus said, I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
Easter - Christ is risen! he is risen indeed!
[Response: He is risen indeed! Alleluiah!]
Pentecost – God’s love has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit he has given us.
After Pentecost – Know that I am with you always to the end of time.
To God the Father who created the world,
To God the Son who redeemed the world,
To God the Holy Spirit who sustains the world;
Be all praise and glory now and for ever.
Lord, you created the world by your love,
You redeemed the world through your love,
You maintain the world with your love.
Help us to give our love to you and to others.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We light this candle in the name of the creator,
whose fire gave birth to the universe
We light this candle in the name of the redeemer,
who saves us from the fire of self-destruction
We light this candle in the name of the sustainer,
who fuels the fires of commitment and witness
God of many fires,
open our eyes to the light of your presence
and our hearts to the warmth of your love
at the end of this day, we give thanks to god
for the blessings we never noticed
the beauties we saw, touched and tasted
the ordinary light and air
our ordinary food and drink
all that sustains us unnoticed every day
at the end of this week we give thanks to god
for the city that surrounds us and is our home
the journeys we made and the systems that made them possible
the people we dealt with in depth or in passing
the places we rested and worked
at the end of this month we give thanks to god
for the turning seasons of the earth
the cycles of the moon and tides
the life that ebbs and flows around and inside us
repeating yet never repeating
Alternative prayers of confession:
We are people who are eager to do well, but slow to do good. Let us return to the Lord our God;
In your mercy, Lord, forgive us.
We are people who are eager to save time, but slow to give time. Let us return to the Lord our God;
In your mercy, Lord, forgive us.
We are people who are eager to improve our lives, but slow to improve our world. Let us return to the Lord our God;
In your mercy, Lord, forgive us.
And still the world trades with dishonest scales. Let us return to the Lord our God;
In your mercy, Lord, forgive us.
Hold fast to love and justice.
God forgives us. Let us forgive ourselves and forgive others.
We come before you, Holy God, and say:
‘This is who we are’
We are the people who long for the new heaven and the new earth
But can’t always take the first step towards it.
Forgive us, gracious God
We are those who love the city
But who participate in its destructive patterns of live
And fail to lift up its beauty and creativity.
Forgive us, gracious God.
We are the people who commit ourselves to build the community of the Gospel
But we so often betray that hope and fail each other.
Forgive us, gracious God.
We are people who sometimes see the vision for our own lives,
But we are weak and fall far short of the dream.
Forgive us, gracious God.
The content of this section should be contemplative and quiet in nature. It should give space for the congregation to reflect rather than being didactic. It's possible to have discussion or sharing, but ask questions rather than give answers. Leave space for wondering, imagining, thinking.
Possible ideas include:
brief discussion or sharing
The content might follow:
the theme of the previous Grace service
the theme of the season for Grace
the liturgical season
something in the news
You could use the ethos ideas:
also check the grace archives for suitable material
Duration 15 minutes maximum.
Don't make mess that has to be cleared up afterwards
No elaborate preparation or setup
Keep it simple
Introductory words spoken by leader:
Let's share the matters we'd like to bring before God for prayer
God hears us when we explain to one another, so instead of repeating everything in prayer we will commit each matter to God after we've talked about it with the words:
Lord we place our concerns before you
In your love and mercy hear us
and then finish with a closing prayer.
[Sharing of matters for prayer]
You know what we need before we ask it
You see the hidden desires of our hearts
You remember all the things we have forgotten
You understand the whole picture
Answer our prayers in accordance with your wisdom and compassion
Lord we place our concerns before you
In your love and mercy hear us
may we be blessed,
as we look to the day ahead
as we return to our lives and find new rocks and new fruit
may we be blessed,
as we engage with others
as we take time to participate and give others the chance to do the same
may we have courage to create and take risks,
and may we find our rest in god.
may we be blessed,
as we show our weaknesses and god's grace
may others join us in fragility
may our broken pieces fit together as one body.
may we be blessed
as we are healed by christ's own wounds
may we become broken in order to become whole
may we become whole by knowing that we are broken
may we bear our wounds and our hurts
may we go into the places that scare us
may we deal with anger and sadness
and may god be with us all the way.
may we be blessed
forgiven but never forgotten
accepted as we are
broken, wounded, hurt and loved
Go in peace.
And may God be in your creating,
Christ be found in your midst,
And the Spirit lead you to life.