February 2009: The Gift
Setup of space:
Usual central space with beanbags
Big gift boxes for part 3 in centre of this
Cats cradle of strings across columns towards chancel - tangled in these are small gifts [rubik cubes, kinder eggs, sweets] on one end of a string with a brown envelope on the other end.
Altar near chancel arch, with old-fashioned 'balance'-type scales on
Main projector screen only in chancel arch - showing Babette's Feast with sound off throughout service. Since the film is 102 minutes long it started before the service.
introduced theme of this and the next service
the planning group found themselves swapping stories about gifts they had given and received - so it seemed a good idea to get the congregation into small groups to share their gift stories:
and then share some of these with all of us.
3. our good intentions
There is a pile of wrapped gift boxes in centre of beanbags. Around these are gift tags and pens. People are invited to add, and keep adding gift tags of the real messages they want to convey by gift giving. There are some sample ones already added to give an idea e.g.
"I don't really know you or understand you, but you always buy me something, so I thought I better get you something, and I'm trying to give it generously"
"I've searched everywhere to find the present which best says how much you mean to me, but I couldn't find it and now I've had to buy this in a hurry, and you'll never know..."
"I'd much rather hang out with you for a day, but as we don't seem to be able to make that happen, have this gift instead"
Introduction to this section:
"As we've heard in some of the stories, giving gifts can create a range of good and bad emotions. Delight. Surprise. Love. Confusion. Disappointment. Anxiety. Gift giving can be a complex experience.
The real meaning of the gift can often be different from the obvious meaning...
Have you had the experience of searching high and low trying to find the perfect gift for someone, running out of time and then having to buy something unsuitable in a rush? The recipient never knowing the time and concern you put into the search or how much you value them.
Or trying to be generous as you give a beautiful gift to someone you barely know, simply to reciprocate their gift and keep up appearances?
Or wishing that you could simply spend time with the recipient of the gift, enjoying their company and friendship but find yourself buying and giving a gift instead?
We were wondering what it would feel like to be able to give a gift where the meaning of the gift is explicit rather than 'wrapped up' with the gift.
Take a gift tag or two, remember some of the thoughts you've had as you've looked for, made, bought or given gifts, and experiment with writing an honest message to your imaginary recipient.
When you're ready add your messages to the parcels.
There are some there already to start you off."
4. gifts with strings
gifts sometimes have 'strings attached' - because gifts create relationship, they can be used to trap or coerce people into obligations or unwelcome situations. some gifts have to be refused, because the relationship they create is dangerous or inappropriate.
Cats cradle of strings across columns towards chancel - tangled in these are small gifts [rubik cubes, kinder eggs, sweets] on one end of a string with a brown envelope on the other end. In the envelope is the hidden message of the gift which is less pleasant:
now collect the rest of the series or your kids will be unhappy
now promise you love me
I expect you to turn a blind eye
just sign right here
Thankyou for accepting our offer. Unless you cancel in writing within 14 days, the annual fee of £72.30 will be charged to your card
We're sure you will tell everyone how generous we are
We're too busy to spend much time with you
Terms and conditions apply
Now stop bothering me
REPENT! For the hour of judgment is at hand!
now give me that contract
Now sleep with me
I expect you to put me first
Now phone our premium-rate number to find out if you've won a prize
If you leave me I'll never forgive you
Welcome to our friendly church community! We always need volunteers for the coffee rota and church cleaning!
Welcome to our church! We expect members to give regularly through the stewardship scheme.
Now give me something expensive in return
Leave your partner and marry me
You scratch my back I'll scratch yours
Give me the job
Buy everything from us
Don't expect me to do the washing up
Terms and conditions apply
We have the right to use your name and photo in our advertising
I will expect you to return the favour when I ask
Please don't sue
The congregation climb into the cats cradle web to get the gifts - they follow the strings from the gifts to the envelopes, and open the envelopes to read the message. Now that the gifts are untied from the strings, they give the gifts to each other.
5. how does god give?
Read some verses around gift (life, generosity, forgiveness, Jesus...). As each is read pour rice onto scales. After each one word association prayers with the response:
for the gifts you give thank you
How do we give to God?
Read psalm 50
Read Grace remix of Psalm 50
if gifts are about relationships, what do God's gifts say about our relationship with God?
ie gift of eternal life - because god wants us to be with her always
God gives to us in the hope that we give ourselves in return - it's not about what [things] we give [which are small] but our gift of relationship back to God
God wants us to gift ourselves
not sacrifices but hearts
Our gifts should be tokens of relationship not payments of obligation
Come up to table one by one
we pour rice over person's hands as a sign of generosity of God
they put a grain or two back into the empty side of the scale as a token of relationship.
6. receiving gifts from god to give to others
after the formal end of the service, we asked the congegation if they wanted to take away some of the rice for cooking - plastic bags were available for this.