Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

September 1998: The sin of holiness

Grace 1998 September-December flyer frontGrace 1998 September-December flyer back

Mike Riddell was guest speaker and had given us the title, so we ran with the concept. At what point does our pursuit of [what we think is] 'holiness' become a sin - because it tramples other values such as love and compassion?

to summarise some of our preliminary thoughts:

  • holiness comes from closeness to God rather than closeness to God coming from holiness
  • holiness is about removing barriers between ourselves and God - commandments etc are just guides as to where those barriers and obstacles might be.
  • holiness as safety - when securing one's own personal standing with God becomes more important than giving his love to others - abstinence from engagement
  • holy = churchy - 'holiness' as a badge of belonging, defining who's in and who's out

one thing we are trying to home in on is the distinction between things that are conventionally considered unholy, but aren't; and things that are conventionally not considered unholy, but are. for example, farting in church is not unholy, although it may be bad manners; playing wombles records is not unholy, although it may be bad manners; doing the National Lottery may not be bad manners but is unholy.


MIKE to prepare spoof orders of service:

for spoof order of service - 'dis-grace'

things forbidden in church:

  • playing cards
  • drinking alcohol
  • prawn/pork
  • fart
  • belch
  • spit
  • wearing a hat
  • cross-dress
  • smoke
  • take drugs
  • talk
  • eat
  • snog
  • feel someone up
  • snore
  • swear
  • listen to walkman
  • gamble
  • smile/laugh
  • clap
  • dance
  • argue
  • lapdancing
  • put hands up
  • heckle/interrupt the preacher
  • dress provocatively or scantily [not always the same thing!]
  • take all your clothes off
  • not wear your Sunday best
  • read porn mags

if you have nothing to confess, we can provide you with something
you may choose any or all of the following:

  • rubber goose
  • fags & booze
  • lottery ticket

MARK to search out Father Ted videos for swearing etc, and the National Lottery

welcome/intro - MIKE

caricatures of holiness - JEN & MIKE

figures of holy and unholy person:

small groups have A3 sheet with holy & unholy figure on -
write on it what each person would do/be/think/wear etc
pin results up on two large versions of figures at front - STEVE

the congregation's list of holy and unholy things:


  • recognising god for who he is
  • living in the light of god
  • prayer
  • letting god in
  • repentant heart
  • things done with a godly attitude
  • everyone and all creation especially cats even snakes
  • guitars
  • wholeness
  • mother theresa
  • spirit filled
  • seeking god
  • honesty
  • openness
  • identifying with christ
  • daring to be different
  • selfless
  • pure
  • joy
  • peace
  • loves god
  • loving
  • kind
  • god in us
  • wash'n'go spirituality
  • delirious? t-shirt
  • the guardian
  • someone who lives by the biblical law [spirit]
  • humble
  • christlikeness
  • wears a halo
  • tries to build commitment to the truth
  • seeking intimacy with god
  • no dress sense
  • superspiritual
  • overpious
  • middle class
  • conformity
  • challenging injustice
  • being right with god
  • little spare cash
  • sandals
  • inclusive
  • challenging by lifestyle
  • makes you feel uncomfortable
  • punk
  • gospel
  • breakbeat
  • self-sacrifice
  • bruce cockburn t-shirt
  • rachel's mum
  • integrity


  • deceitful
  • going against god
  • greed
  • rock music
  • satanism
  • prodigy t-shirt
  • apathy
  • legalism
  • selfish
  • arrogant
  • blasphemous
  • bigot
  • into self-gain
  • american
  • exclusive
  • sex
  • rebellion
  • miniskirt
  • bow tie
  • grunge look
  • metal jacket
  • open to immorality
  • chooses own paths for life
  • finds submission to god difficult
  • uncaring
  • disregard for others
  • nirvana t-shirt
  • violence
  • the sun
  • porn video
  • hate god
  • expletives
  • abuse
  • pride
  • sexy
  • anger
  • swears
  • taking the lord's name in vain
  • disrespect for god
  • wilfully against god
  • media baron
  • brokenness
  • pot noodles
  • the pope who bled nine choirboys to death so that he could drink their blood [the first transfusion - he died!]
  • curly guitar leads
  • shutting god out
  • 'me' culture
  • envy
  • ceremonial killing of chickens
  • hypocrisy


interview Mike Riddell - JONNY

Mike Riddell's address

opportunity for questions



getting our hands dirty planting hyacinth or similar bulbs - DAVE


some people don't do anything very bad and yet feel unholy/unworthy - PAUL

Father we come to you, as we are, in unholiness, in holiness, as sinners, as children of God.

We are sorry for the times we fail you. For times when we are not holy, that is when we have put barriers between ourselves and you, preventing us from being close to you. Forgive us Lord. Forgive us also when we set a measure or a standard of holiness to aspire to which is not what you require of us. Help us to become closer to you and to remove the obstacles that distance us from you.

Thank you that Jesus shattered the illusions of holiness performed by the Pharisees. You re-interpreted the meaning of holiness and you are our example that we aspire to follow. Despite being accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, this did not deter you from being engaged with the poor, needy, Roman officials, the sick, tax collectors, children, prostitutes, the rich, rulers, widows. We could think of many types of people that you would be engaged with this day.

Let us not commit the sin of holiness, when we have put barriers between ourselves and the world, that is, abstinence from engagement with the world in which we live. Lord you have called us all to the great commission. Show us by your example how we may be holy and pleasing in your sight, being both close to God and being salt and light to the world.


by paul wainwright


concluding words


<< swipe left

We made an altar of traditionally 'unholy' things - gambling (playing cards), alcohol (beer cans) and sex (a 'lad mag')!

Steve cracked open a can of beer on the mic at the end of the service. Unfortunately one of the congregation was a recovering alcoholic and was upset!

Getting our hands dirty planting hyacinth bulbs.

Small groups have an A3 sheet with 'holy' & 'unholy' figures on - write on it what each person would do/be/think/wear etc. Pin results up on two large versions of figures at front.

The 'holy' and 'unholy' figures.

Mike Riddell's talk, with question and answer session.


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