A number of people have asked for a copy of the final service at the National Youth Worker’s Inservice this year (2005) that I decided that I’d have to spend some time writing up the “liturgy” for the service. I was even surprised to see that the service was mentioned on the front page of the Victorian Synod’s “newspaper” including space for a brief review of the training event.
It probably needs to be said that this was a contextual service, ie it was set up as the closing service for a conference of youth workers that had been discussing the theme of “Mobile Theology,” we used a bible reading that had become a central piece to the conference and as such it wouldn’t really work elsewhere, however I think we created a new way of closing conferences in worship that was rather powerful.
I’d only really been asked to pick the service up in the week leading up to the conference, so prior to the gig hadn’t really thought about it much before we gathered, it’s my belief that we close in worship to reflect, praise, thank god and be sent out into the world, so if reflection’s a primary role writing the service prior to the gig would be an almost useless exercise. During the week Adrian Greenwood and I had had a number of conversations of liturgies including texting people directions around the campsite, conducting blessings at the swimming pool, prayers down by the creek and communion on the road outside the conference centre. Most of these ideas were disregarded after 4 days of torrential rainfall looked like it would become 5 days and we decided that we’d been wet enough already during the gig.
In hindsight this was a good thing, because it made me sit down and think about how we could say goodbye to one another and thank God for the space and the words that God had shared with us over the week together.
I decided to continue reflecting on the reading that Kenda Creasy Dean used in a few of her lectures with us, 1 King 19 and to type it onto our phones and sms it to people to read out during the service. In hindsight typing the entire chapter into my mobile phone was probably not the most time-conservative way of doing a reading, but it managed to fill in a good hour or so on the final night. I’d chatted to some people and made sure that they’d be ok with 2 lines each, I’d type the lines in and then sms it to them the night before, and during the service I’d sms them with “you’re up” to let them know when to continue the reading. This is probably a saner, (yet more expensive) way to do this as the owner of the phone would have time to read the text first, while giving the illusion of the bible verse being texted live. The abbreviations and txt language I used reading could have become a problem without practice.
One of the more amusing things was that a number of mates of mine had decided that throughout the service they would continue the beeping by continually smsing each other, and myself and anyone else they had the numbers of in the room. This created a continual “liturgical sound/rhythm” that sounded God’s presence in the space, for in each beep people had become used to expecting something, a reading, a prayer… something, a space for God to speak to us.
The mobile phone had become a sacred item, could the act of sending an sms be sacramental?
Liturgy for closing a conference on “mobile theology”:
Call to Worship: The service started with a proclamation, an invitation for people to re-claim their mobile phones as sacred items, to turn them on rather than turn them off. In an act of sacramental solidarity everyone turned on their phones and were greeted by an amusing musical arrangement of beeps and ring tones. I’d like to think that the musical arrangement of beeps was God-given, this was our call to worship, a mix of beeps and vibrations echoing through the worship space.
Visual Reflection: We hit play on the dvd of “One Perfect Day” where the main characters share a phone conversation. The male phones his girlfriend and as she answers he plays the piano for her, their tune, their melody that he’d written for her a while ago and she would one day write the lyrics to sit alongside the music. A conversation happens over the phone, from the UK to Australia he asks to hear her simple melody, she hesitates and then holds the phone to her heart, we hear the heart beating, he sighs and after a while she hangs the phone up. This is probably one of my favorite films of all time, little known but some scenes that just add years to your life.
Bible Reading 1: I texted someone with “you’re up” the phones beeped, everyone looked about, they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Bible Reading 2: About half the way through the reading I smsed someone else with “you’re up” and when the verse had finished they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Reflection – Remembering each other: We invited people to pack up the chairs that we were sitting on, and in the process to think of those people that they have sat next to, in meal or in lecture or in play. People were to remember their new friends and brothers in Christ. We then proceeded to stand and stack all of our chairs away, like one would when we were cleaning.
We were now sitting on the floor.
Bible Reading 3: I texted someone with “you’re up” the phones beeped, everyone looked about, they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Bible Reading 4: About half the way through the reading I smsed someone else with “you’re up” and when the verse had finished they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Reflection – Remebering Images: We now invited people to remember, to reflect on the things that they had seen, the powerpoints, the movies, the presentations, the rain… And as we reflected we packed up the data projectors, the screens, the cables and put them each away in their space.
Bible Reading 5: I texted someone with “you’re up” the phones beeped, everyone looked about, they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Bible Reading 6: About half the way through the reading I smsed someone else with “you’re up” and when the verse had finished they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Reflection – Remembering the Words: We then invited people to pack up the sound system, the speakers, the cables, the microphones and stands, the pulpit. As they were being packed away we reflected in silence of those things that we’d heard over the space of the week together, the lectures, the words of kindness and encouragement, the readings…
Bible Reading 7: I texted someone with “you’re up” the phones beeped, everyone looked about, they stood up and read a couple of verses.
Reflection – What Do We Take With Us? By now we were sitting in a fairly baron space, fairly empty, no chairs to sit on, no data projector to play with, no music streaming from the speakers. We were leaving the space soon, we can’t take a data projector with us, they need power cables, we could only take what’s in our pockets. We invited people to empty their pockets and to reflect on what they were taking with them into the mission field, back home and to work.
Bible Reading 8: I texted someone with “you’re up” the phones beeped, everyone looked about, they stood up and read the final verses of the chapter.
Reflection – Sustenance: So, what sustains us now that we’re leaving? Now that we’ve packed everything away, now that our pockets are emptied and chairs are packed what do we take to sustain us on the journey? In the middle of the space the only item that was left was a table with the elements of bread and wine on it.
Communion: We entered into communion by passing the peace with each other, by getting people’s mobile numbers that we hadn’t got yet and promising to contact them after the gig to see how they were going.
Rev Niall McKay from Bathurst presided over the communion liturgy.
After communion we were sent out and blessed (from memory I think Niall sent us out and then someone else decided to bless us again… I think I’ll refrain from saying more about that)
So yeah, that’s the service from the Inservice, in hindsight I’d have liked to include Duncan’s idea of using our mobile phones as an act of intercessory prayer, but it was still a good way for us to reflect on the journey, pray, be sustained and encouraged and be sent out into the world from the conference.
And to this day when I hear a mobile phone beep I wonder what God has to say, I still expect something to happen. For me, the mobile phone has become a sacred item, it’s beeps a liturgical rhythm, it’s ring tones hymns, it’s pxt’s icons.
Marcus has also written his own liturgy over at His Blog