Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

March 2007: Body

march 2007 grace flyer

one finger one thumb one arm one leg one nod of the head stand up sit down keep moving: what language does your body speak in church? what's the connection between physical and spiritual position? how do bodies speak when words fail?

throw some shapes at this month's grace - every body welcome.

there will be a traidcraft produce stall in the cafe afterwards, as part of fairtrade fortnight 2007 [26th february - 11th march]. feed your body fairly!


clear benches out of centre, leave nowhere to sit - prevent people from using remaining benches

hide beanbags in aisle behind pulpit for dragging out later

screens to each side as usual - words to songs and liturgies projected

eucharist: set up in middle of space after the peace with 'fat eucharist' [burger and sugary drink] and 'size zero eucharist' [cigarette and bottled water] either side [steve will buy bread and wine and fat and thin parts]

service sheet text:

The theme of this month’s service is Body
We will be thinking about how we use our bodies to relate to God and to each other in God’s presence.
Please excuse the temporary absence of any furniture. This is entirely deliberate and will be rectified soon enough...
We will be celebrating Holy Communion later. While you are waiting to begin worshipping, you may want to consider how you will be physically expressing yourself during the various stages of communion.
What do you want to express during: The Confession? The Absolution? The Peace?
Are you ready to begin?
Good. Now stop slouching ... and is that gum in your mouth? Spit it out at once...

cafe: Wei Hei has offered to run a fairtrade stall at Grace as it is during fairtrade fortnight. So fairtrade wine for the café would be appropriate.


1. start with empty space

[nowhere to sit, posture stations set up]. people enter and are standing

2. greeting [steve]

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

3. welcome to grace [steve]

4. songs - ?, 'this is my body' [jonny]

5. posture stations:

announce stations/where they are, give time for congregation to visit them [steve]
each needs an explanatory sheet/instructions

5.1. discipline/attention/endurance [richard]

5.1.1 pew - sit up straight
5.1.2 prayer stool/kneeler - kneel

5.2. prostration, stretching out - face down:

prostration [steve collins]

kneel down on the floor
bend forward until your forehead touches the floor
stretch out and lie face down

this is the posture of complete submission
abandonment of self to another
a pouring out of the inner self upon the ground as an offering
at the feet of god, or another person

in various ordination rituals, the candidate will prostrate themselves
at the feet of the bishop as a sign of submission and self-gift
to the will of God and the church

most churches don't have room for this
the pews or chairs are in the way
the floor is hard and grubby
such nakedness of the soul is embarrassing to the one who prays
and to the rest of the congregation
emotions and clothes will be dishevelled

but the dirt and discomfort is part of the point
this posture implies a need so great
that dignity and comfort are forgotten

have you ever prayed like this?
in church? privately?

prostation bible readings:
Matthew 26:36-39
Exodus 34:5-8
2 Samuel 12:15-17
Luke 8:42-47

5.3. prostration, stretching out - face up

'in the bathtub' relaxing before god - rubber ducks, large beanbag

Jesus, loofah of my soul [Ben Cohen]

I was always a bit of an anxious soul when it came to approaching God. I still can be... A wise Christian counsel gave me a very helpful piece of advice. "You need to find somewhere you’re truly comfortable and relaxed. Try praying in the bath. It’s hard to get too uptight and anxious while you’re lying there with the bathwater sloshing over the side."

There are certainly times that sitting upright, back straight, hands together, eyes closed is exactly what’s needed for the discipline. At other times it’s a good hot bath. Or sitting on a discarded sofa in the back yard with a glass of Jack Daniels (or non-alcoholic equivalent!).

Where could you truly relax, to talk to God - however briefly?

Help yourself to a duck and sit yourself down in the "relaxation zone". Have a think where you could truly relax in God’s presence...

Name him (or her) and place him/her on the flat palm of your hand.

Now take your new pet home and use to remind you of God in those little laid back moments...

5.4. standing

Praying with your body 1 [ben cohen]

Do you ever feel that something in your life is so overwhelming that you don’t know how to pray about it? Where do you start? How can you stop? Try this simple exercise:

Think of something that you want to bring to God in prayer.
Stand with your body upright. Hands raised above your head, lightly touching.
Now, slowly, deliberately, describe a wide circle with your arms until your hands meet again at your waist.

While you trace the arc, bring to mind each different aspect of the need or situation - let them pour into your mind freely.
It’s as if each facet of what you are praying for is an hour of the day, or the branch of a circular tree.

Take as long as you need to do this; to bring everything to mind.
Then, when you have created the prayer circle, roll it up into a tight ball and hand it back to Jesus Christ.

If you’re feeling brave, keep your hands held out and see what He hands back in return!

Praying with your body 2 [ben cohen]

Praying or worshipping God with your body has gained a reputation among some people as being a bit, well, "woosy" ie for weedy wets. But in Biblical times, there doesn’t seem much that is twee about how they responded to God.
They would throw themselves on their faces in contrition...
Beat their breasts...

And they would "rent their garments asunder"; literally rip their garments in anguish.

It was a sign of rupturing relationship. The High Priest tore his garment at the perceived blasphemy of Jesus’ response to the question "are you the Son of the Most High?"

Take a piece of fabric with you for the communion. When we confess our sins and receive absolution, tear the cloth with all your might.

There was another symbolic tearing of fabric in the Gospels. When Jesus gave up His spirit to God on the cross, the curtain in the temple - separating humankind from the Holy of Holies - was torn in two. It allowed God’s grace to pour out on the whole World.

The tear of contrition can also be the tear of grace...

5.5. modern seat - the anti-posture posture

The modern seat [steve collins]

sit down
cross your legs
maybe lean forward a bit to pray

the modern church seat is about individual comfort.
it's the non-posture posture.
it says that what you do with your body doesn't matter much spiritually
so park your body and put it in neutral
comfortable but not too much because we don't want you to fall asleep
as if you were on public transport or in a car
[try kneeling on the tube and see what happens]

of course it's ideal for people whose postures are limited by age or infirmity
but all this reinforces the idea that
your body is something to forget about in church
it won’t be required here

there aren't really any bible references for this one

6. then set up the beanbags in centre as usual

- get congregation to bring them out of aisle
- bring back some benches too [steve to direct]

7. bible readings

- verses illustrating use of postures - several voices to read

8. confession [dean]

think about what posture you wish to confess in
rip fabric obtained from posture station

9. tearing prayer [steve collins]

we have torn ourselves
torn relationships
torn society
torn the earth
and torn away from you

you took our wounding and separation upon yourself
giving your body and your bond with God to be torn instead of us

and at the end,
as you were torn from life itself,
the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom
the curtain separating us from god was torn

10. absolution [dean]

11. the peace - [dean]

12. 'communion bread volleyball' [ben]

- get the congregation to play volleyball with an [unconsecrated] loaf of bread. anyone who drops it has to eat a piece before hitting it up in the air again [amazingly, people do this!]. after five minutes of edgy hilarity ben explains that this was to dramatize in a humorous way that it matters how we give out the bread and wine. the actual communion took place with a different loaf and in a more conventional manner.

13. eucharist [dean]

Communion Liturgy

The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

Father, we give you thanks and praise
that through your Son Jesus Christ
you have created all things.
All that we can see, touch, smell, hear or taste
was made by you, and you saw that it was good.
You give us breath and speech,
that we might sing your praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord.,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

But we have distorted the work of your hands.
By hating each other we have mocked your creation.
By hating our own bodies we have hated you.
And so your Son took on flesh to revel in your world and to heal it.
Born of a young girl, he walked among us.
He delighted in the warm sun on his face and in the sweetness of honey.
He told stories of foxes and their holes, extravagant feasting,
and the tender embrace of a father for his estranged son.
Through tales of the physical he taught us about the spiritual.
Through his death on the cross he abolished false distinctions between the two,
and offers us fullness of life.
On the night that he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
My body for you.
Take, eat; remember.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks and said:
My blood for you, a sign of forgiveness.
Drink; remember.

Send the Holy Spirit on your people
Gather all who share this loaf and cup
to the feast where there is no size zero and no obese,
and our true beauty is revealed.

Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ,
in the unity of the Spirit,
with all who stand before you in earth and heaven,
we worship you, Father almighty,
in songs of everlasting praise:
Blessing and honour and glory and power
be yours for ever and ever.

14. blessing [dean]


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Prostration, face down. Behind, the modern church seat.

Prostration, face up - 'in the bathtub' relaxing before God - rubber ducks, large beanbag.

Take a rubber duck from the bathroom cabinet.


The ducks light up when the bottom is wet.

Prostration, face down.


Ben leading people in standing body prayer. Julian Opie 'walking' sculpture on the screen behind.

Throwing the bread around the church. Anyone who drops it has to eat a piece before hitting it up in the air again. The actual communion loaf was a different one...

Different kinds of eucharist.

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