Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

November 1998: Pre-millenial tension

Grace 1999 flyer

1. songs

2. intro to theme

reflections on the blue peter time capsule being buried and dug up (JEN)

for this we borrowed from the BBC archive the tape of the blue peter episode in 1971 where peter purves, john noakes and valerie singleton filled and buried the time capsule!

3. thoughts about the future and what lies after 2000 (STEVE)

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, the 19th century saw a rate of technological progress unprecedented in human history. One of the side effects of this was the invention of science fiction, as the rate of change in the real world encouraged imaginative speculation about the unbelievable wonders, or nightmares, that lay ahead.

And it's at about this time, the late 19th century, that the year 2000 starts to take on a special significance in people's imaginations; not in a religious sense, but as a date symbolising the idea of the Future not just as a time not yet come, but as a radically different place from the past. Clearly, during the endless ages of, say, Egypt of the pharaohs, the idea of the future as radically different from the present wasn't going to happen; and for most of human history, whenever people have dreamed of a radically different future it was going to come about as a result of divine intervention from outside human history, rather than as a result of human development itself. But someone in 1890 will have been aware that they were living in a world that had been utterly transformed in the space of a human lifetime, and the magic date with all the zeros, the millennial date, draws the eye and people start to ask the question, "If technology carries on changing human society like this - what will life be like in the year 2000?"

Now clearly, over the past century there have been two answers given to that question - the optimistic answer, where technology brings about a utopia of peace, plenty, and usually human idleness; or the pessimistic answer, where technology either destroys humanity or enslaves it.

And we're going to take a look at some of those visions now.

Firstly, the optimistic view, which I think is best symbolised by 2001: a Space Odyssey - in particular the Blue Danube sequence with the space station and the trip to the moon.

[play movie clip]

When I was a child in the late 60s, this was the vision of the future we were brought up on - a future of technological optimism and freedom. When I saw 2001 again a couple of years ago, after not having seen it since the 70s, I was heartbroken - this was the future I was promised, my childhood dream - and it will never happen. I feel robbed, in a way.

By the 1980s it was obvious that the shiny space-age vision of the future wasn't going to happen, and the worsening of the Cold War brought about by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the election of Reagan, the deployment of cruise missiles etc, brought about a series of visions of the future as nuclear nightmare such as hadn't been seen since the 50s, all encouraged by the increasing apocalypticism of the religious right in America who almost seemed to enjoy what was going on. Let's take a look at the opening sequence of Terminator 2:

[play movie clip]

Note the irony of the date - those visions now look a little dated, since the end of the Cold War. We at Grace know that machines can't take over the world, because they can't even work the slide projector. My, they're going to have to evolve fast!

So where does this leave us now that we're almost at the year 2000? What's been creeping up on us in the years since the 60s, is that the Future isn't futuristic after all - it's pretty much like the past but with different gadgets.

Sometimes the future arrives, but more slowly than expected. I remember seeing designs for people-carriers in the 1960s, but it took the car industry 30 years to get around to it. And virtual reality - remember that? - very 1992 - looks like it's going to be another future that takes forever to arrive.

Human history as normal, in short, rather than a radical break from it. And although we're having a little burst of excitement now, once we get past the year 2000 there isn't another date to replace it, that can stand as a symbol of the future, for a very long time. 2100 doesn't have the same ring. And I'd suggest that the idea of the Future [capital F] as a place radically different from the past, as we have known it for the last hundred years or so, will fade away and we will be back in a situation similar to that of, say, the 18th century, where the future was just whatever happened next, without the capital F or the apocalyptic vision. A future in which the human race muddles on through wars and rumours of wars, in which the battle is never won, but never lost either, until the Lord returns. The tube will still be dirty and we will get stuck in the tunnel, but the voice of a female android [excuse the contradiction] will tell us what the next station will be, if we ever get to it. In short, Blade Runner. Let's take a look:

[play movie clip]

Now this, too, is probably too pessimistic [I hope]; but it is I think far closer to a real future than anything else we've seen. It's a non-futuristic future, in which clothes and buildings have retro styling. It's a future in which electronics, and genetics, are simply business. And it's an environmentally degraded future. Blade Runner is based on the book 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by Philip K. Dick, and what isn't made explicit in the film, but is in the book, is that most animal life is extinct. It starts with owls - one day all the owls are dead, and no-one knows why. Then another sort of animal just dies, and another, until hardly any real ones are left - and artificial animals are manufactured to fill the human need for nature. Uncomfortably possible.

now with that vision of the future standing as a warning, we're going to move on to reflect more personally on where we ourselves, the Church, and the planet are heading.

[steve collins]

4. stations - taking stock

each of these will have an introduction from the front to set the scene for what people are expected to do. how to live is the pressing concern for the future. once we pass 2000 rather than feeling like things are drawing to an end, it will feel like there is this huge open space in front of us. we will have three stations representing the planet, ourselves, and the church. visiting each will be a chance to reflect on where each is headed and what our part to play is in each.

Station 1: personal - acorns....

readings from douglas coupland 'girlfriend in a coma' chapter 35 about taking responsibility for life (JONNY)

how do you feel about the future?
what will you be doing in 2010? 2020?
in a survey of old people asked what they would do differently if the lived their lives over again, one common response was that they would RISK more.
what are your dreams for the future?
what risks do you need to take to realise them?

jesus told a story of how the kingdom of god is like a small seed that grows to become a large tree.
hold the seed/acorn - what does it represent in your life?
take some time to offer it and your future to god.

Station 2: global - pile of rubbish

to whom does the earth belong? (MIKE)

the time has come for judgement
and for rewarding your prophets
and your saints who live in awe of you
both great and small
and for destroying those
who destroyed the earth.

Revelation 11:18

Reflect on Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:10-11, Psalm 115:16. In what ways have human beings failed to exercise a cooperative and responsible dominion over the Earth that God has given them?

Read Genesis 1:9-12, 20-30. Do verses 26 and 28 provide a declaration of war on nature?

Are developing tools and technology, farming the land, digging for minerals, extracting fuels, damming rivers for hydroelectric power, harnessing atomic energy all fulfilments of God's primeval command? Are we the 'lords' of the Earth? Has Christianity actually caused irresponsible use of natural resources?

So what distinctive contribution to the ecological debate should Christians make? We believe that God created the Earth and that one day he will recreate it. Read Romans 8:18-25.

In Ronald Higgins' book 'The Seventh Enemy', the first six enemies are the population explosion, the food crisis, the scarcity of resources, environmental degradation, nuclear abuse and scientific technology. The seventh enemy is humanity itself, our personal blindness and political inertia in the face of today's ecological challenge.

Do we find it easier to subdue the Earth than we do to subdue ourselves?

At the root of the ecological crisis is human greed. How does this challenge us?

In what one way could I help to conserve our human environment for the next century?

[mike rose]

Station 3: church - autumn leaves

As we approach the end of the second Millennium since the birth of Christ, how do we find the Church and what future does it have? Possibly the best symbol for the Church in the West today is autumn leaves, wonderfully colourful, reflecting the denominationalism/sectarianism that is so much a part of the Western Church. Colourful but.............dying, with nothing more to contribute to keeping the tree alive through the coming winter.

We’ve all heard the statistics - less than 10% of the population attend church regularly; falling and ageing congregations; financial problems; coupled with this are opinion polls that suggest an increased interest in the spiritual. Yes we know tales of revival, of God working in the world, of hundreds coming to Christ, of the harvest to be reaped...and yet these revivals only seem to favour para-religious groups with individual obsessions, rather than the Church as a whole.

Coupled with this is the growth in all the world’s major religions of fundamentalism. This fundamentalism seems to be the result of fear triggered by the break-up of traditional cultural patterns. As we move from one era of civilisation to another, from the modern world of scientific certainty to the postmodern world of uncertainty, where even if the truth is out there it will be different for each one of us, people become more and more anxious and seek safety in a non-existent past, a land of Hovis and Holy Spirit where they feel they still have a role and where the rules are clear and unquestionable. Many of these groups seem to feel that we are living in ‘the last days’. Listen to their songs if you want to know how they think:

Called to the battle, heavenly war
God subdues every nation
We are saved, we are saved
At his name the demons flee
There’s a wind blowing all across the land
Great celebrations on that final day when out of the heavens you come

Six different songs, but there are hundreds more like them, full of battles being won, exile ending, the Temple rebuilt, the Lord reigning. All this imagery points to a longing for a turning point, some great event that will mark a return to a world of certainty.

So as the 20th century draws to an end and we prepare to enter the Third Millennium, the Western Church can be seen thrashing around in disarray, its limbs out of control, rather like a dinosaur in its death throes, its tail whipping about felling anything in the way. This monster could easily destroy its own treasure of mystics and prophets, of good news and wisdom, of sacramental powers and sacred ritual. If our Mother Church is to survive the winter and bloom again in the spring of the new millennium, we must try to save these treasures before they are lost forever under a sea of mud of legalism, dualism, fundamentalism, formalism, sexism, ageism, and any other ism you care to mention.

The Church must develop a new and inclusive spirituality if it is not to become the exclusive and closed club that so many of its members seem to want. Change must be welcomed as a God-given challenge, as a chance for growth and not as something to run away from. Only if the Church is seen to open its doors and heart to all will it survive in the Third Millennium.

If Mother Church is dying in the West there are many possible causes and many things that must be saved. Below is a list of factors that may be helping to kill our Mother, and of things that need to be’s up to you which category they go in. Use this list to help you as you pray for our Mother. Add your own factors, discuss with others, act on it.

  • fear
  • buildings
  • future
  • priests
  • tradition
  • racism
  • homophobia
  • sexism
  • sacraments
  • the word
  • bishops
  • politics
  • creativity
  • money
  • fascism
  • patriarchy
  • greed
  • compassion
  • mercy
  • all other isms
  • individuality
  • mysticism
  • prophets
  • charismatics
  • gospel
  • wisdom
  • grace
  • sacrifice
  • saints
  • hope
  • jesus
  • science
  • truth
  • relativity
  • evangelicals
  • evangelism
  • faith
  • charity
  • love

(david holme)

5. songs

6. readings + music

visions of the future from scripture + on god's faithful covenant (JEN)

7. final thoughts on spirituality

triumphalistic/revivalistic religion has led to disillusion e.g. 'i want to build the kingdom of god in my generation' when the promises aren't delivered. we need a more realistic but hopeful vision of god with us as we head into the future that connects with faithful hopeful living along the lines of jeremiah to thos in exile Jer 29:5-9 (DAVE)

8. song/blessing

<< October: Communion - what's it all about? | top | December: Christmas Labyrinth >>