Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

August 2014: Event Horizon

Event Horizon was staged 10am-8pm Saturday 23rd August 2014 at Greenbelt Festival, in the landscape feature called 'Orpheus'. Orpheus consists of a square spiral path descending to a pool of water. Greenbelt asked alternative worship groups Grace, Transcendence and Beyond to run labyrinths in Orpheus on successive days of the festival. We were struck by the fact that the central space of this labyrinth, which is normally though of as the 'holy space' of encounter with God, is here inaccessible - a dark pool of unknown depth. The path just ends at the pool.

This suggested the idea that the pool is an 'event horizon' - a surface from beyond which no information reaches the observer, most famously around a 'black hole' in space. Having the 'holy space' as inaccessible and impenetrable implies that God is ultimately unknowable, not approachable beyond a certain point. The Bible says in several places that God cannot be seen [by humans, at least].

We didn't want to interrupt the beauty of Orpheus with stations, nor would it be easy to set up and remove elaborate things in this location. So we provided a meditation on postcards to be picked up from small boxes on the way in, and dropped back in the boxes on the way out. The path had eight corners so there were eight cards to be collected. You could also pick up beads for a bracelet as a keepsake. We wanted to repeat the buried iPods from our July labyrinth in Ealing, but we didn't dare dig into Orpheus so we hid them under astroturf! The music tracks, by Chris Read and Harry Baker, are various combinations of the basic tracks for 'But in silence', the title track of their 'But in silence' EP. They form a layer of meditative material that can be listened to in any order on the way in or out.

There was a maximum occupancy for Orpheus of 25, set by Greenbelt. This suited us as it prevented crowding - in effect it's three people per turn of the path. On the day we ran at capacity throughout, and people took 30-45 minutes to complete, so we had about 370 people over the day.

Photos on flickr here.

The instructions:

On the way in:

Pick up a thread for beads.

At each corner of the path is a numbered box, 1 to 8. At each box on the way in, pick up a card and a black bead and take them with you. Read the black side of the card as you walk to the next box. Add the bead to your thread. When you get to the end of the path by the water you will have 8 cards and 8 black beads.

On the way out:

When you are ready to walk back, turn the cards over and read the white sides on the way back in reverse order, starting with 8. When you reach box 8, drop in card 8 and take a clear bead. Then read the white side of card 7 until you reach box 7, drop it in and take another clear bead, and so on as you walk up. As you leave Orpheus you should have dropped off each card in its numbered box. You will have a string of 8 black and 8 clear beads to keep.


There are headphones along the path. Put them on to hear a piece of music. The tracks are an additional element to help your thoughts. You don’t need to listen to all (or any) of them, or in a particular order. You can listen on the journey in and out. The tracks play continuously on a loop so you don’t have to wait for them to start or end. Listen for as long as you want.

The cards:

The words on the cards were organised in binary black/white pairs as follows:

1 Entry / Re-entry

2 What you don't know / What you know

3 Give up / Receive back

4 Hurting / Healing

5 Unmindful / Mindful

6 Gravity / Weight

7 Absence / Presence

8 Event horizon / Event horizon

Inward journey - the black side of the cards:

1 Entry

We could live long.
We could live short.
We could live lucky.
We could be tossed about in the storm – mildly or violently.
So much beauty.
So much horror.
Ah, what a world.
What a world.

2 What you don't know

Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.

Job 38:16-18

Look up into the sky and down into the water. Close your eyes and stand in the darkness. There is a space at the centre that we cannot enter, like the dark region at the centre of our galaxy. And yet it draws us towards itself.

The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.

Thomas Huxley

What have you unlearnt about God?

3 Give up

Imagine that all your concerns and worries are a stone.
Explore the stone in your mind - its shape, colour, texture.
Look towards the pool at the centre of Orpheus.
In your mind, hold the stone over the water.
In your own time let it go.

Watch your concerns and worries fall.
Imagine them being pulled into the depths of God, never to be found.
How does it feel to release them?

Imagine that all your knowledge and wisdom are a stone.
Explore the stone in your mind - its shape, colour, texture.
Look towards the pool at the centre of Orpheus.
In your mind, hold the stone over the water.
In your own time let it go.

Watch your knowledge and wisdom fall.
Imagine them being pulled into the depths of God, never to be found.
How does it feel to release them?

4 Hurting

We stand in a beautiful part of our broken world,
regretful of the ways in which we have used our world and its people.
Where we have brought hurt?
Where we have failed to do good?

What are the things and the actions you find hard to leave behind as you approach God?
Do you stay with them or let them go?

5 Unmindful

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

Mark 2:7

What other stars attract you away from God?
Capture you with their gravity, and pull you into orbit?
Where do you find the energy to break free?

What are your false paradises?
Where are you tempted to linger, and abandon the quest for God?

6 Gravity

What is drawing you towards God?
As you walk feel the pull of gravity, downward, inward, towards the centre.
What do you hope to find there?
The answers to your questions, or the questions to your answers?
As you move closer to God, do you understand more or less?

From afar we think we can name God,
give a meaningful description and a summing up.
But meeting God for real we may find an unknown one,
a shadowy stranger with whom we wrestle until injured,
a being so ungraspable to human thought
that his only message is:

I am who I am.

7 Absence

Where is God? ...Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence.

C.S. Lewis, after the death of his wife.

When all that surrounds you is darkness and silence, are you still pulled towards the unknown?

8 Event horizon

In the final approach to God
abandon all structures and theories.

They are a tiny spacecraft
before the face of a vast dark star.
Our vessel brought us here, but it can take us no further.
It cannot contain what we have found.

All we have been seeking lies below us.
There are no signs, neither welcome nor hostility.
No angels stir its depths.

All things are drawn towards it,
all guilt, all love, all fear, all grief,
all virtue, knowledge, boredom, joy.
All gifts received by the deep as due
pass through without trace or return.

We stand in orbit, uncertain,
watching them fall and disappear.
We transmit and wait for a signal.
There is nothing to say except
"We are here. We came."
And there is no reply.

Outward journey - the white side of the cards:

8 Event horizon

But when we turn around
we see the stars as never before.
We see ourselves and all the universe
made strange and freshly minted

as if the gifts we gave to God
were passed around behind our backs
in cosmic sleight of hand to hang,
refreshed and splendid, in the sky:
a galaxy of hope, festooned,
a Christmas.

7 Presence

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John 1:18

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth. . . . All things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16

It is as if a wall which separated us from the truth has collapsed. Wider expanses and greater depths are now exposed to the searching eye of knowledge, regions of which we had not even a pre-sentiment.

Hermann Weyl, On the Discovery of General Relativity

This is how scientists experience breakthroughs - is it like this for Christians? Are there moments where the veil is lifted, when we get a glimpse of what God is like?

Where are you pointing your telescope?

6 Weight

Climbing out of the gravity well
we feel our engines falter

It's tempting to turn back
fall away from the questions and actions of life
to sleep once again in orbit
held fast by God.

But our air supply will only last so long
just enough to get us home
to the places we have been sent to heal
to the people we have been sent to love

Where are you going?
To whom have you been sent?

5 Mindful

Have you ever seen anything in your life more wonderful
than the way the sun, every evening,
relaxed and easy, floats toward the horizon

such wild love—
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough for the pleasure
that fills you, as the sun reaches out, as it warms you

as you stand there, empty-handed—
or have you too turned from this world--
or have you too gone crazy for power, for things?

Mary Oliver, “The Sun” [extracts]

Where are you now?

4 Healing

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Do the people around you drive you to distraction? Or perhaps at times you can see beyond that – the part of them that reflects back the image of God.

Who are the other people with whom your life is connected?
Give thanks for them.
Hold them in prayer before God.

3 Receive back

You created my inmost being
You knit me together in my mother's womb
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well

Psalm 139:13-14

When you look in the mirror what do you see?
Do you see someone that is 'fearfully and wonderfully made'?
Does what you see make you want to praise or cringe?
What do you think Jesus meant when he said to love others as we love ourselves?

Feel your fingertips.
Look at the pattern on them.
Each is unique.
You are unique.

You are made in God's image.

You are loved by the Creator who is proud of you, the created.
Ask God to show you the real beloved you, the you that God sees.

2 What you know

"He who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”

Luke 25:22-23

There may be plenty you don’t understand about God or that is unclear.
But what about those things you do know about God?

Maybe you’re pretty sure God wants her children to care about people living in extreme poverty. Or that God wants you to refrain from running people down behind their back…

Think for a minute or two: what are the things you are pretty sure you already know about God? These are the 'talents' you have already been given. How can you put them to the very best use? Then, maybe, just maybe, God will give you a couple more…

1 Re-entry

You could live long.
You could live short.
You could live lucky.
You could be tossed about in the storm – mildly or violently.
So much beauty.
So much horror.
Ah, what a world.
What a world!

Are you ready?

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