June 2000: Pentecost
Service originated by Mark Pierson/Mike Riddell at Parallel Universe, Cityside Baptist Church, Auckland NZ. Revised by Café Church, Sydney as described in chapter 4 of 'The Prodigal Project' [Mike Riddell/Mark Pierson/Cathy Kirkpatrick SPCK].
setup - a burning brazier surrounded by a ring of tvs showing fire imagery [see photos]
1. The Fire of God's Presence (Exodus 3/2)
"take off your shoes... we stand before the fire of god's presence"
congregation take off their shoes
"The word of the Lord is a fire in my heart and a hammer in my bones. May the fire embrace us. May the fire deliver us. May the fire purify us. May the fire enliven us. May the fire roar. May the fire spread.
Fire of God, we welcome you."
each person lights a match and we say together, "the fire of god here with us"
2. The Fire of God's Acceptance (Isaiah 6/7)
a burning coal is passed from person to person using tongs, with the words "the fire of god's acceptance"
3. The Fire of Revealing (1 Corinthians 3/11)
ads torn out of magazines and burnt in the brazier
4. The Fire of Suffering (1 Peter 1/7)
5. The Fire of Passion (Jeremiah 20/9)
it is likely that we played 'firestarter' by the prodigy in this section.
text of an email from steve collins to cathy kirkpatrick:
at grace last night, being stuck for ideas for a pentecost service, we used your 'fire' service as featured in the prodigal project. the tvs were set up in a horseshoe around a flaming barbecue in the centre of the church. around the tvs, an outer necklace of candles. our new vision mixer, on 'permanent loan' from the bbc, makes whole new realms of video effects possible, which look pretty good on five screens. we think we'll use the arrangement again for events - i'll send you pictures when i get them out the camera [a couple of months]. for the service itself we stuck to the original script.
we had our share of technical hitches. as i read 'the fire of god's presence' ["there is nothing but the fire and the darkness"] the tvs switched to benign blue sea creatures while the video guys scrabbled at the controls. the flaming coal for the tongs wouldn't glow, and as it was passed round each person blew on it to try to get some orange; it became a sort of ritual action, but meaning what? one child was only just dissuaded from taking the coal in his hand. we tried to burn adverts symbolically, but the pieces of paper were too large and went up in sheets of flame, threatening to fly off the barbecue and stressing the vicar. but it was a good service, and the beautiful setting was a sacrament.
afterwards, my hour's drive home on the motorway became a kind of harmonious extension of the service. the road was uncrowded; the orange floodlights curved overhead in the deep blue summer night sky, the red taillights and white headlights in motion, the blue glowing rectangles of signs; people would travel to see such displays. the engine of my vw bus makes its coffee-percolator burbling somewhere in the back.
when i got home i ate strawberries, for the first time this summer. it felt like a moment to make food up, to eat three of something that comes in twos, to eat things that are not like the meals your mother taught you. unless you had a strange hippy mother who had thrown out order in cooking as a product of the system and was teaching her children that you could eat anything, anytime, however you liked.