I’ve recently returned from this year’s National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC), it’s a national gathering of young people from the Uniting Church in Australia that’s held biannually, it moves around a bit and this year it was in NSW.
Adrian Greenwood, Drew Hanna, a number of friends & I coordinated a space that we called “Cafe-Praxis” in it we held intentional Q&A sessions with elders and leaders from the UCA, Daily Bible Study, Worship, Open Mic, Lightening Talks and a few other things…
There’s a lot to say about what we did at NCYC, but I thought I’d focus on the three worship sessions which we based around community participation, story and passion. The themes for each of the gatherings were
Much of what I used to do in alternative Worship was to create spaces that would grow over time, but would allow for individuals to enter into and participate at their own speed. For these gatherings we had about an hour to play with and I’d intentionally attempted to create a liturgy that involved community participation and engagement, rather than stations I’d create space for us to engage.
And to do that I used three story books to help engage with the themes at hand
I thought I’d take some time and put the liturgies (where I have the liturgy) online for people to access if they’d like. All in all I think they were beautiful spaces and I had a lot of fun both creating them and seeing how people engaged with them, each other & God in the space.
Worship 03 (45 minutes)
Youth Camps are often talked about as “Mountaintop Experiences” personally, I think that’s partially because of the arrogance of those running the camp, who’s to say that this camp will be the most outstanding spiritual experience the young person will ever participate in? Who’s to say that this event will stick with them for life? Who’s to say that the arrival home will be so depressing?
But the reality is that we regularly set young people up for a bit f a fall, when they arrive home and head back to church after a gig like this, back to the predominantly older community who, perhaps like their hymns, and, as much as they’d like to understand can’t really grasp all the things the young person’s come home talking about. And how do other congregations live up to an experience where the large cross cultural community the young people have seen and participated living in for a week, it might be a bit too much.
And perhaps we cram the worship with so much joy and dancing that we don’t give people the resources to lament, or to live out their faith when what they return to looks nothing like the camp they’ve just come from.
With that in mind, our final worship for the gathering was a service of lament, no final hype building dance off of a worship service, no happy clappy music, we’d do a sad service, one where we can ask the question of how do we sustain our passions, or at least how do we continue living them out even if our passion leaves us?
After Sister Theresa’s death some of her journal writings were released, among them were a number of entries that I’d classify as lament, we decided to use a piece from one of these entries alongside our Psalm for the morning. Personally I find it interesting that a lot of people were shocked to hear that Sister Teresa had these feelings, and were dismayed by it. Instead of being dismayed I find it a powerful testimony that she continued to stayed true to her passion throughout her struggles in faith, instead of walking away she was able to speak to God and name her struggle but continue to follow her passion to love others.
This service was be based around a reading of the book “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss ( http://homepages.ius.edu/harrisla/places.htm ) throughout which we stopped at intervals and allow for an action or another reading.
We had filled a number of balloons with helium and attached ribbons, at the end of the ribbon we’d placed small cut outs of hot air balloons. If the roof was lower we would have had the balloons in the space creating a bit more atmosphere, as the ceiling was REALLy high we had to hand the balloons out during the service and take our chances that they wouldn’t be let go and get caught in the ceiling.
We also hung party banner/bunting/flags around the space so as to colour up the space more and fit in with the reading of the story.
Our gift for participants was a jigsaw piece from a world map, along with the piece was a card with Psalm 13 printed on it.
Call to Worship
Hello, & welcome to Cafe Praxis
God is here!
God’s Spirit is with us!
This is not a youth event
This is an opportunity to worship God
This is not a performance
This is our worship
We invite each other to use the environment, the visuals, the music and the words to stimulate our thoughts and draw our hearts to wonder at the goodness of God.
You are invited to participate & join in our worship
If you are visiting to look for ideas for your local church, we invite you to put aside your own agendas and simply join in worship – we are more than happy to spend time with you after the service and to help you in whatever way we can in your situation.
But today let us come together to meet God in a way that includes everyone here as a participant.
In as much as we give in worship, so might we receive from God.
This is an act of faith.
Today’s theme will help us to focus on sustaining our passions
even when things get tough
We invite you to bring your whole self, your thoughts, fears, suspicions, hurts, joy, faith, hopes and love …to God.
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
This time of worship is God’s gift to us.
Let us be God’s gift to each other.
Let’s spend the next 5 minutes saying hello to those around us we don’t know as a sign that in God’s kingdom, all are accepted, all belong.
“You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.”
Reading: A journal entry lament from Mother Teresa
“Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”
How do we sustain passion when things sometimes seem too hard, or when God seems far away?
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
We invite everyone to write or draw the passions that have been ignited, re-ignited or extinguished during this gathering as a means of acknowledging their leaving this space. do this on the flags overhead.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
Reading – A Psalm of Lament – Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Pull down a balloon from the ceiling. Write a prayer of lament that you might want to offer to God, a prayer that names the struggles or fears you’ve had, or think you shall have when you head home.
Be honest, these Psalms of Lament remind us that God takes these prayers seriously and hears them and is big enough to take them on, even your darkest fears.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
Together we shall pray over our prayers of lament or prayers of struggle or prayers of fear
We invite you to tie your balloons together with those around you into a bunch of balloons and, as you do share each other’s prayers, know you’re not alone.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
Blessing: “Hope” taken from “A Book of Blessings” by Juli Allen
i encourage you
in times when you forget what it is to smile,
when your heart is so heavy it hurts,
and it feels as though no one understands. .
i encourage you in your ‘lostness’,
in your dark nights,
as you descend the depths of silence,
and as you brush the bottom of your soul.
as your voice grows hoarse,
as your confidence weakens,
as you question-as you doubt,
as you wonder who is friend,
and who is foe.
i encourage you
to passionately wait,
to diligently seek,
to quietly hope,
to grit your teeth,
to clench your fist,
and to continue on.
for God has not forgotten you,
you have not been abandoned.
God will renew you each morning
and will deliver each promise.
feel yourself held.
and above all else,
We have a small gift for you to take with you as you leave worship this morning, you’ll find it on the Foosball table in the centre of the worship space.
As a final act of prayer and of passion we shall release our balloons outside, knowing that God has heard, and will continue to hear our cries and that, even through the tough times, where our passions might seem insignificant God is present.
Music – Home by Eat The Menu