June 2010: Speaking of God
This service followed a discussion we had in the planning group about inclusive language, and explored expansive language for God.
As people waited for the service to start, they played Taboo - the game where you describe a word without using any of the most obvious associated words.
We had the words of 'Praise my Soul the King of Heaven' on a screen. Half way through the service we introduced this and invited people to edit any words they wanted to change.
At the start of the service, we invited people to move to the choir stalls while 'He who would valiant be' was played on the piano. Someone appeared in the pulpit to preach to the 'brothers' about the wrath of God.
People then moved into a space at the front of the church to discuss their reactions to the sermon. They were enclosed in tape saying 'Do not cross' while we considered whether the language we use for God constrained us from a fuller understanding of who God is.
We broke the tape and people moved back to the body of the church.
Opening prayer, with space for people to think about the words they instinctively use for God.
Someone talked about different models for understanding the atom: Rutherford's planetary model compared with Schrödinger's quantum model. The new model led to many discoveries that we now take for granted.
In what way is your picture of God like the planetary model of the atom?
How is your picture incomplete?
What language and explanations do you use that hold you back from a fuller picture of God?
What might become possible if you can see the limitations of your picture of God?
We invited people to 'park' the instinctive and familiar words we use for God, not to reject them, but to put them to one side in order to create space for a more expansive understanding of God. People wrote them on yellow pieces of card and attached them to the spine of a book, creating a library of words that we wanted to rest.
People were invited to join in a confession.
We gave everyone an envelope with a different metaphor for God, most from the Bible, some from creeds and writers through the ages. People reflected on what this metaphor revealed about God, and talked to others near them about their words.
We invited people to choose a new metaphor or phrase that shed light on God's nature and write a prayer or some words that explored this. There was also an opportunity to create artwork. People came and wrote their new word on another piece of coloured card and added it to the bookcase, expanding the library of words. Here are the words that people parked, and that people chose to explore.
In an atmosphere of worship, people read out their prayers. Here are a few:
We ended with a blessing.