Using Vintage Hymns in Worship – a new book by Gillian Warson. You may find this interesting…

The publisher says –

For Christian believers, hymns offer an opportunity to bear witness to their faith and lift their voices in praise of God with their fellow worshippers. Hymns, even those dulled by familiarity, far from being trite and complacent, have the power to alert us to grave dangers facing the world today, and even to move us to decisive action.

Tempting though it is to disregard older hymns thinking of them as past their sell-by date, for many of the faithful, these traditional texts form the bedrock of worship and liturgy. Yet, what can be done if treasured hymns express social attitudes we no longer share, for example with regard to gender or colonialism?

Gillian R. Warson blows the dust off unfashionable texts and argues that they can now be regarded as “vintage”. She argues that hymn singing can continue as a flourishing tradition with old and new coexisting comfortably alongside each other, and suggests that vintage hymn texts should be lovingly preserved so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

You can see more at Gillian R. Warson News or buy the book here .

Pentecost resources – hymns, song, poem, monologue, reflection, drama

The following items are all written by Marjorie Dobson or Andrew Pratt.
More of Marjorie Dobson's writing can be found at Stainer & Bell Ltd - Marjorie Dobson
More of Andrew Pratt's writing can be found at Stainer & Bell Ltd - Andrew Pratt

Hymn: It was a new beginning on the day the Spirit came

It was a new beginning on the day the Spirit came.
The house was filled with roaring wind and heads were touched by flame.
Their lips were blessed with languages that all could understand 
and Peter led the charge into this new uncharted land.

It was a revelation when the doors were opened wide 
and all could see what happened to the ones who were inside.
“These men are plainly very drunk, at only nine-o-clock.
It’s surely very clear they’ve had a monumental shock.”

It was a new translation when the Spirit led their speech 
and Peter stood in front of them and then began to preach.
The people were amazed because they understood each word 
and, what is more, they acted on the message that they heard.

It was a new beginning, but the story carries on, 
as people still find inspiration, though the years have gone.
For Pentecost is permanent, the Spirit still holds sway 
and helps us to translate God’s word and challenge for today.

Marjorie Dobson	
© Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 14 14 14 14

Poem: Common language

Confusion – 
as the Babel-babble of languages 
ripped apart a proud people
and scattered them in misunderstanding.

Resolution – 
as a Spirit-filled language 
swept swiftly through a listening crowd 
and united them in understanding and community.

Same God.
Same Spirit.
But now in longed-for reconciliation, 
as the word of death defeated by the love of God 
was spoken with Pentecostal power.

©Marjorie Dobson

Hymn/Poem: Simultaneous translation

Simultaneous translation, 
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, 
all the world, it seemed, was listening, 
here the Spirit cheers, unites. 
Awe and wonder stunned the people, 
something new had come to birth, 
now the Holy Spirit, flaming, 
spread God's grace across the earth.
Faith's foundations shudder, quaking, 
preconceptions shift and shake, 
people share anticipation,
joy has come and love will wake!

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© Words © 2012 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 8 7 8 7

Inspiration: I hate balloons!

I hate balloons!
Ever since that day
one horrid child
burst one behind me
at a party, 
when I was only four,
or thereabouts -
I’ve hated balloons.

And yet ……

a street-seller
captivates children –
and me –
by making shapes and animals,
as he breathes life
into long, thin balloons
and curves and twists them
in his hands.
Then, suddenly, a dog!
And a delighted child
sees, not breath encased,
only a new friend
to carry home with glee.

balloons are nothing.
they live.

Come Holy Spirit,
pour new life into me,
that I may fill
and change
and live and grow,
by the very breath of God.

Marjorie Dobson
© Words © 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Song: Lithe spirit you're bounding and leaping

Lithe spirit you're bounding and leaping,
stars shimmer and flash from your heels,
until the whole world burns with pardon and praise,
until the lost know how love feels.

O harlequin dazzle by dancing,
let joy spring like sparks from a flame,
until every person consumed by your love
comes blithely to join in your game.

Come juggler, spinning and turning
our chances and dreams like a top,
until all our values are turned upside down
whirl on through the world, never stop.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© Words © 2002 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: 9 8 11 8
Tune: LITHE SPIRIT – from Reclaiming Praise & Whatever Name or Creed ( )
This can be heard with different words at 

Drama: Pentecost People – Acts 2: 1-21
(Could be used as a substitute for a sermon, or in an interactive service, or in a discussion group. The characters could lead into topics for discussion or conversation.)

Reader - Acts 2: 1-21

Narrator: Can you imagine what it must have been like on that day? It must have been sunny – and very hot. What would you have been doing if you were in that crowd? They were mostly Jews from all over the world and this was a religious festival for them.
Maybe imagining how you would have felt then is not easy. For that reason, each of the following characters has brought the story into their own time – our time, maybe?

Maybe this was your regular visit to Jerusalem and you wouldn’t want to miss it? 

Regular attender: Do you know I’ve never missed a Sunday at church for the last forty years – apart from holidays and illness, of course. It’s just a part of my way of life. Every Sunday, get up, get dressed in my best, and off I go. I meet my friends, we have a gossip and coffee after the service and it’s all very pleasant and starts the week off on the right note. The service is OK, so long as the hymns are right and you don’t have to listen to the sermon if you don’t want to. I’ve heard it all before anyway. But these extra visitors are not like us regulars.

Narrator: Maybe you’re local. You live here and have to put up with the visitors. 

Local worshipper: I’m not really comfortable when we get too many visitors crowding our church out - like at Christmas, or Harvest Festival – but I reckon they’re not really serious about the service, so I don’t pay them much attention as long as I can be first in the queue for coffee. I’m not sure why these people come, even if it is a special occasion. We’re not a very adventurous kind of church. We know our own ways and like them and nothing exciting is ever likely to happen round here, so we just carry on as usual and they can make of it what they will.

Narrator: Maybe you’ve travelled a long way – you’re a Jew, but this isn’t even your country. 

Stranger from another place: I’m not from round here. My country is very different to this. So I came here to look for safety and security, but it’s not always easy being here. I hoped the church would offer me some kind of refuge, that’s why I came at this special time. I believe in God, so I should be as much a part of this company as anyone else. I struggle with the language sometimes and some people don’t seem very comfortable because I’m here, but I hope that God will speak to me wherever I am, even if the language is different.

Narrator: Maybe you think all this is a rip-off. People making money.

Cynic: I reckon there’s something fishy going on here. You come to church only because you’ve had your arm twisted up your back by the girl friend to be here for this celebration thing and then it’s just like any other big crowd anywhere. There’s always somebody making a noise, or acting funny, or talking about strange things happening at the front that you can’t see or understand. There are rumours that something’s going to happen and then nothing seems to – not that I can see anyway! I wonder who’s making money out of this and is all this talking and singing just a way of getting you in the mood to hand over even more money

Narrator: Maybe you feel others should recognize that it is a privilege for them to be here with you? 

VIP: It’s really difficult for me when there are all these strangers milling about. Some of them even try to talk to me. But do they know who I am? I have been a pillar of this church and taken on every office I possibly could and given loyal service to this building over many years now. My name has even gone down in its local history and when I speak in a meeting, most people take note of what I’m saying. But it’s so difficult to command respect in a crowd that doesn’t know you. They only come on these special occasions, so I think I should just keep my distance and maybe some of them may recognize that I’m a person of some importance and a force to be reckoned with.

Narrator: Maybe you are panicking because you feel out of control?

The anxious one: I don’t like crowds. I have never liked crowds. I get panicky and afraid because you never know what might happen. That’s why I keep myself to myself – even in church. I don’t want anyone to know how I feel, so I hide it. And who would be interested in my worries and anxieties anyway? I do try to pray about them sometimes, but I’m not even sure that God would want to listen to someone as insignificant as me. So I just keep quiet and hope that I can get away by myself as soon as possible. But it’s so difficult in this crowd. And I’m so easily frightened.

Narrator: The city is hot and noisy and dusty and sweaty and you’re lost and simply moving with the crowd. 

The lost one: I have no idea of how I got here, or why I should be here. I never do have much idea of who I am or where I’m going. I just keep looking for something new, or interesting and seeing where it leads me. Most times, that means nowhere. I don’t suppose this day is going to be any different. I’m sure there must be lots of people who have definite ideas of where they’re going in life and I sometimes envy them. But, for the moment I’ll just drift along following the next craze and not really caring very much about anything. These people seem to be finding something interesting. I suppose I might as well go along with them. For now.

Narrator: Then they come to a standstill outside one particular house. You hear the rumours about the strange people in it. You wait because you’re curious – or simply because you can’t move anywhere else.

Then, suddenly –

Cynic: What did I tell you, Drunk as lords, they are!

The anxious one: Somebody said there was fire somewhere. I’ve got to get out of this!

VIP: Oh dear, what a dreadful noise. This isn’t the sort of behaviour you expect from church people. And they tell me he is a common fisherman!

Local worshipper: They can’t do that kind of thing round here. It’ll give the neighbourhood a bad name!

Regular attender: That man seems to be preaching a very long sermon. I do hope that kind of behaviour won’t catch on!

Stranger from another place: Why are they talking like that? Hey, I can understand that! What does this mean?

The lost one: What that man’s saying really makes me think. Maybe I ought to start taking things seriously. He’s down to earth, but he’s certainly a powerful speaker. This could be the start of a whole new life!

Narrator: All those strange events and Peter filled with a new Spirit of power – surely that was bound to have a tremendous impact on the people there.

It certainly did!

For one thing, three thousand people were added to the church on that day, as they responded to the message that Peter was giving. 

Because it was powerful and they could understand it, as it was being explained in their own language.

Is there some lesson in this for us – HERE and NOW?

©Marjorie Dobson

Hymn: Wind of the Spirit, move us on

Wind of the Spirit, move us on,
drive us before your force.
We need that power to strengthen us
of which you are the source.
Blow off the cobwebs of the past
and set us on your course:
O come Holy Spirit, move us on, move us on.
O come Holy Spirit, move us on.

Fire of the Spirit, burn in us,
surround us with your light.
Destroy our sense of apathy,
give us the will to fight.
That with our hearts on fire for Christ
we set the world alight:

Voice of the Spirit speak to us,
give us your words to say.
Inspire the language of your love,
help us to preach and pray.
That all may hear of saving grace
translated for their day:

Christ, let your Spirit sweep through us,
your serving church renew.
Give us new hope and confidence
in all the work we do.
That those who seek for faith today
may find their way to you:

Marjorie Dobson
© Words © 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre : & Refrain           

Monologue: Three thousand – plus one!

He certainly got through to me, that Peter bloke. I’ve never heard anyone be so forceful and so sincere in what he was saying. It was amazing.
I don’t know where he got the courage from. After all, he’d been hiding away with the others for weeks and I don’t blame them. They knew the authorities were out to get them if they showed their faces and tried to stir up trouble. The Romans and the religious leaders thought they’d settled their problems by killing Jesus, but they certainly knew that they had to keep his followers under control, or everything would flare up again.
So when things seemed to be happening in the hideout, it wasn’t long before a crowd gathered and I was determined to get as good a view as I could.
Everybody thought they were drunk when they spilled out of the door. The general opinion was that they’d been drowning their sorrows while they’d been locked away, but now the drink had given them enough courage to get outside again.
Then Peter started and we couldn’t believe what he was saying, or his confidence in saying it. By the time he’d finished, he’d totally convinced us that it was our fault that we hadn’t recognized Jesus as the Messiah and so we were the ones who’d crucified him. We’d rejected the very person we’d been expecting for hundreds of years and God wasn’t best pleased with us.
All around me people were crying out and asking what they could do to make things right again. As if we could? How could anything change the situation? He was dead and gone and according to Peter, he’d already been taken back to heaven. What difference could we make to that?
But he had an answer for that too. If we were really sorry for our mistake and were prepared to be baptised into the name of Christ, as a sign of our repentance, then God would honour that act and be a part of our lives for ever.
It reminded me of those days at the Jordan river, many years ago, when that odd, hairy prophet, John was pushing people under the water as a sign of repentance. I didn’t fall for that one then and I wasn’t going to be caught out by this Peter either.
All over the place people were falling on their knees amd begging God for forgiveness. I found it really difficult to get out of the crowd; pushing my way through distraught and supposedly repentant people. But I had to get away. I was in danger of being dragged into all this emotion and I didn’t like the idea. So I escaped down a side street and ran home. A little later one of my sons came back  and told me that apparently three thousand people had been baptised into this new group. It was unbelievable.
I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I spent the night pacing up and down, talking to myself and trying not to talk to God. Because I knew, deep in my heart, that Peter was right and I was wrong. And,until I admitted that, I would have to keep God at a distance. So, as day dawned, I knew I had to do something about it.
That’s why I’m off now to become number three thousand and one!

©Marjorie Dobson

Hymn: A commonwealth of love 

A commonwealth of love 
where all are held by grace, 
it seems idyllic on the page, 
could it infect this place?
Within that upper room
were people just like us, 
but meeting Christ in faith and love 
transformed their depth of trust.
And when we meet with God 
we cannot but be changed,
for God confronts our doubt and fear
as lives are rearranged.
This day the change begins, 
the vision is fulfilled, 
and life will never be the same 
where love can be distilled.
So let us grasp this hope
that set the world alight,
that love can never be destroyed 
and fear is put to flight.
A commonwealth of love:
let's risk a seed of grace
to bring this vision into life
within this time and place.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
© Words © 2012 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England,
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Metre: DSM

Just passing through – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – conversion? membership of the church? accepting others

Just passing through…
Bristol evening © Andrew Pratt

Although the title of the latest Methodist hymn book, Singing the Faith, suggests that there is just one faith the more people I meet the more I feel that there are almost as many expressions of faith as there are people. As you read this, reflect back on how you came to faith. Who influenced you? How did you learn? In what ways is your life different because of your faith. 

The poet Dylan Thomas once said that he loved hearing about people’s stories, but they had better be quick or else he’d be talking about his. So excuse me if I indulge myself a bit. Though I didn’t go to Sunday School as a child I did go to church with my parents until I was eleven. I didn’t really go again with any regularity until I was in my twenties. In spite of this I remember two influences, impressions if you like, which have remained with me. Our head teacher was our RE teacher. I found him boring and not very sympathetic. On the other hand my botany teacher enthralled me. I still have little memory or knowledge of botany, but I do remember him saying, ‘I can see some good in any body’. We pushed him on that. He insisted that he could. Not only that, but he lived it out as an example to us. 

Why do I bore you with this? Simply because that impressed me and made me have a different outlook on others. Though I came to faith through something of a mystical experience (more of that another time perhaps) my ‘conversion’ was as much ethical as religious. I changed paths, pulled out of biological research. Attending a new church as I began to re-train as a teacher, after one visit, I asked the minister how I might join that church. I was just passing through – a one year teaching certificate, living partly in a bed-sit, partly commuting 20 miles home each evening depending on my parents’ health. 

Only later did I come across the story of Philip and an Ethiopian (Acts 8: 26-40). The Ethiopian was a government treasury official. He was also a eunuch. He would have assumed that, in a religious sense, he had no ultimate hope. But he was curious. As he travelled he had been reading Hebrew scripture, as we now know it. Philip explained something of what he was reading. It was a passage from Isaiah. It spoke of someone led to the slaughter, who would not open his mouth, to whom justice would be denied, whose life had been taken away from the earth. Hopeless. 

Philip explained that this spoke of Jesus and that Jesus, in some way offered hope. If you read this passage in some translations verse 37 is missing. Let me explain. The Ethiopian, we do not know his name, asked what could prevent him from being baptised. The missing verse says this: Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” The reason that this verse is missing from, the New Revised Standard Version and other translations, is that it is not in all the original manuscripts from which our New Testament has been translated. Some scholars, and I would agree with them, feel that the original is just too scandalous to be accepted. How can anyone be baptised without a confession of faith? and, no certainty of the belief of the person? See how it reads without the missing verse:

v. 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
v. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

It has often passed through my mind that if Philip had been a Methodist he would surely have offered a course of study, have asked the Church Council whether they were accepting of this person. Of course, he’s black, that might have been a problem. I hear you saying ‘of course not’. Listen to black people sharing their experience of the ‘welcome’ they have so often experienced in our churches, not to mention the recent disclosures about racism in the church of England (a similar story might be told in many other churches). Don’t dismiss what has been said and what people say they have felt. But this story speaks of someone of a different language, colour, ethnicity, faith.

And so I return to a bedsit in Exeter and a minister sharing coffee with me, this student ‘just passing through’. We spoke for an hour, I suppose. Apart from attending one service we’d never met before. There was no confession of faith, not that you’d recognise as such. And what did the minister say, ‘Ok I’ll make you a member’. I asked what people of the church might think? He answered that what they thought didn’t matter, it was between me and God. I never did find out what they thought, or said to the Minister.

I wasn’t going to be involved in that church, not for long anyway. But I’ve been in the church ever since, moving from place to place, some more welcoming than others, some where I’ve felt at home. Some not. Strange though, those that have mirrored best that open, trusting attitude of Philip, not counting numbers or treasuring buildings, just accepting anyone even if they are just passing through, seeing something good in everyone; those places felt most loving, most Christian. And the others, so often, sadly, seemed to want people like themselves and to control who could belong, and who they’d prefer not to. I think it was Jesus, of all people, who said, ‘My father is the gardener’ the one who chooses, who prunes, who casts dead wood on the fire. Not you or me. 

I thank God for the minister who welcomed me and who I learned much later, behaved like Philip with the Ethiopian. He didn’t know me or where I had come from, nor where I would go, but accepted me as I was. Without him I would not be writing this fifty years later. As the author of Acts records it, as the Ethiopian ‘came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing’. 

I’m still here in the Methodist Church. And I pray that we might continue to welcome strangers, no questions asked, no hurdles of belief or creed to jump over – something good in all of them, sending them on their way rejoicing…

And may the community where you meet be one of unconditional love…

A temple where all people will be welcome, 
a city where all poverty will end, 
a promise of an unexpected future, 
a depth of love we cannot comprehend.

For love is all we ever need to offer, 
no vast cathedral, pinnacles of light; 
but shining love illumines every morning 
while scattering the shards of dying night.

New every morning is this love's creation;
new every day, our hope will be reborn, 
until Your people stumble from the darkness 
and recognise that this is love's new dawn.

And seeing how such love infects our being, 
transforming fear, eradicating hate, 
we praise You for your loving understanding, 
and pray our loving may not come too late.

A Prayer: May we see good in everyone, meet Christ in all and offer love without question to every person so that when we sing ‘All are welcome’ it will genuinely reflect what we live in our lives. Amen.

Poem/Hymn Andrew Pratt © 2016 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, 
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Good Friday to Easter

(commissioned for the Mid-Cheshire Circuit of the Methodist Church in the UK, for March 31st 2021 - Humanity into eternity or Death into Life - this is a personal reflection of the author)

Read by Andrew Pratt - click here

This week leads us up to the excitement of Easter Sunday, but to get there we need to get through Good Friday. Far from the hymn language of ‘glorious scars’ and a ‘wondrous cross’ this day is almost impossible for me. You see, I do not believe in a vindictive God who sacrifices his Son. I do trust, through faith, in the incarnation – God being human. The language we use to explain this enigma is taut, strained – a baby in a manger, ‘the Word made flesh’. But if this is our starting point then it is God who hung on a cross on that first ‘good Friday’. I cannot cope with some vast plan of salvation that requires the sacrifice of a child, even an adult child. What I can understand is a God of love, from whom we can never be separated (Romans 8, 38).

So where does that leave us? For me Jesus embodies God’s love completely. 

Such love has to be totally selfless and this is what I see in Jesus. It is the sort of love that challenges all hypocrisy, injustice and indignity to which we are exposed, and which we still experience. But there is a problem here. The moment we start to love those whom others do not, or cannot, love we become a threat to them. We either have to acknowledge that love and ally ourselves with it, or ignore it, oppose it. We are inherently selfish. Humanly we seek our own preservation. That is a biological imperative. So when Jesus challenged the powers, those around him by challenging their economy, their culture it was threatening. You remember the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the money-changers? But they were only going about their normal business. Or his emphasis on the importance of the widow’s tiny gift; surely the gifts of the rich were more important? Or again, when he paused to heal a woman, whom religion said was unclean, who had touched him in the crowd. And he had been called to heal the daughter of a leader of the synagogue! His priorities seemed all wrong. In all these ways it felt as if he was a threat to the culture and religion, the very economy of the people. He was a threat to their way of life. How they behaved was no different from how we, in similar situations, behave today. They and we behave, literally, naturally. 

And Jesus response was the only possible response of complete and utter, unconditional, all-inclusive love: that is forgiveness – ‘forgive them for they literally don’t know what they’re doing’! And we, for all our protestations, are so often no different.

And the cross becomes wondrous, not as some great theological bargain, or the culmination of a cosmic plan of sacrifice, but in the revelation of the nature of total love that we are called to follow. And the human response to this call to love, because of all the sacrifice it requires us to make, is at best half-hearted, at worst vicious, for here, in our neighbour ‘spurned, derided God is dying…

Tortured, beaten, scarred and tainted,            
not a picture deftly painted,
more a tattered, battered being,
torn, disfigured, stark, unseeing.

Muscles twisted, strained, contorted,
body dangling, bruised, distorted.
Life blood drying, sun-baked, stinging,
hatred, bitter hatred, flinging.

Crowds insensate, tempers vented,
full of anger, discontented.
Curses scattered, insults flying,
spurned, derided, God is dying.

And the world is shrouded in darkness, inevitably for in darkness we cannot see. If God is dead this really is the end. And this is why theologians, then and now, you and I, seek to explain away this horror. Yet Jurgen Moltmann, some years ago in a book which still deserves to be read, The Crucified God, sees the cross as the test of all that deserves to be called Christian, rather than the resurrection. Here we see God’s utter love and willingness to be vulnerable, even unto death in order to be one with us, in order not to deny love even for those who killed him. And the scandal and uniqueness is that gods are not meant to die! Wondrous love! Wondrous God, indeed! Love divine, all loves excelling!


So where does that leave us on that wonderful dawn of Easter Sunday, when round the world people will greet the sunrise with hallelujahs? Firstly, that death is not the end! NOT THE END OF LOVE! An empty tomb was not, in the first instance, assuring. Read what Mark says: ‘Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid’ (Mark 16, 8). In another gospel Jesus, mistaken for a gardener speaks:
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20: 15-16)

Jesus continues …’Do not hold on to me...’ (John 20: 17). The language is that of leaving and, for the moment we put aside the stories of Jesus appearing to other disciples, women and men, the ongoing message is one of ‘what next’? And the answer of the gospels and Acts is not the recollection of a dead God but the continuing active living out in humanity of the sort of life that Jesus showed was possible for every human being, that risky life of utter love of neighbour of every race or creed, of those like us and unlike us so that as Brian Wren wrote, ‘there’s a Spirit in the air…when a hungry child is fed’. And yet in this past year it has taken those outside of government and the church to prompt those of power to remember that simple message. Resurrection was not a one off theological ‘thing’ but comes about every time someone Christian, or other, offers a simple gift of love. For me this reality came about after an operation when, in its aftermath, a nurse, whose name I do not know, put her hand on my shoulder saying, ‘it will pass’…and the sun streamed in the window:

Each hour marks a mighty resurrection, 
a time of overcoming fate and fear, 
the dawning of a common understanding 
in which the grace of God is drawing near.
Each morning brings a sense of new creation.
New life, new love, encompasses the earth.
New time, new light illuminates the distance,
as though the world is coming, fresh, to birth. 
Each evening brings a stunning revelation, 
as stars and planets hove into our view, 
beyond imagination and reflection, 
these scattered bangles flung against the blue.
Each season brings a sense of co-existence, 
relatedness of heartbeat, rhythm, rhyme;
and every year the cycle goes on spinning, 
affirming faith and love through endless time.
Reflection, text and audio: Andrew Pratt; Poems: Andrew E Pratt © Stainer & Bell Ltd; Paintings: © Andrew Pratt from Words, Images and Imagination.

Maundy Thursday – Passover Agape / Lovefeast

Passover Agape / Lovefeast for Maundy Thursday (From the book Nothing Too Religious by Marjorie Dobson and Andrew Pratt - click to see)

Explanation: An Agape or Love Feast is a meal celebrated in some traditions which is similar to communion, but which has the potential to be more inclusive. Bread and water are used rather than bread and wine. The atmosphere is informal, more like an ordinary meal.
The order of service which follows uses this idea, but is also inspired in part by the Jewish Passover. It is based on a service for ecumenical worship which was held during Holy Week which, because of its informal nature, attracted some people from the fringe of the church, who came out of curiosity.

The following hymn or ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’

This is the point of our faith for the future

This is the point of our faith for the future,
pooling our knowledge of love and of life,
bringing together the world and its people,
working for freedom, an ending of strife.

This is the God that we share, that we worship,
source of all cultures, the ground of all peace,
God in a unity dwelling within us,
growing between us and bringing release.

This is the way we will walk with each other,
walk hand in hand to the end of the way,
sharing each moment, each hope for the future,
bringing to being this dawning new day.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2007 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Introduction: This is the season of Passover, Pesach. Today we meet as Christians, but we remember our heritage and shared inheritance with the Jewish people. As we share this Agape, this Love Feast, this communion, it is appropriate that we identify with them and so our words are formed from our own scriptures, but also as an echo of the liturgy for the Passover. For Jews, memory is all important. In memory they are united with those who suffered and lived, loved and rejoiced before them. We echo this as we ‘do this in remembrance’ of Jesus. And so we share:

We remember tonight that long ago, on a night like this, the people with whom we share our tradition set out on a journey.
They knew enslavement and oppression, but they remembered a happier past.
God called them from slavery and offered them the courage to seek freedom.
Boldly they left Egypt, crossed the Sea, and headed into a desert. They believed that God would bring them to a far off Promised Land.
The memory of this journey they recounted and we share. It has been passed down from generation to generation. The story was told to children and to children’s children, reiterated and re-enacted from year to year.
We, too, give thanks for our freedom; we, too, imagine or remember what it means to be a slave.
And so we pray for all who are still in slavery, still denied their human rights.
As we meet at this table, we affirm that there is a place at God’s table for all people of all ages and all nations.
Here we share a cup of blessing, which speaks of deliverance, here we eat the bread of life, which speaks of freedom and unity.
May we be united with our neighbours of whatever race or creed.
May all people be free from bondage
and from oppression,
from hunger
and from want,
from hatred
and from fear;
may we all be free to think
and to speak,
to learn
and to love;
may God give us hope
and the reason to rejoice;
soon, in our days.

This is the story that they recounted:

Exodus 12.21–27

The following hymn or ‘Sanna, sannanina’

The sacramental waiting Hymn

The sacramental waiting
for love that is to come
is like God's constant heart beat,
the thrumming of a drum.

The things that really matter,
that keep us safe or sane,
are like God's bread that's broken,
like rainbows after rain.

The hope that holds us captive,
the grace that seals our worth,
are God's firm confirmation
that love is ours on earth.

We watch the sunbeams scatter.
The shadows flicker fast.
Yet God's love is a constant,
we know that love will last.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2007 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Those people continued their reflection. Whether or not this is our experience, we continue to identify with the Jews as we pray:

Our ancestors were wandering Arameans;
they went down into Egypt and lived there as aliens,
few in number.
In time they became a great nation.
The Egyptians treated them harshly and afflicted them,
by imposing hard labour on them,
they cried to God and God heard their voice and saw their oppression.
God brought them out of Egypt with a terrifying display of power,
and with signs and wonders.
He brought them to freedom and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. (based on Deuteronomy 26.5–9)

Since then our parents in faith have been wanderers, without a home. Again and again, they have been fugitives and refugees.
Through them we share the pain of the outsider, the hopelessness of the oppressed, the distress of the homeless, the dislocation of the refugee.
They have experienced the fear that we see in those around us who come to our shores for refuge.
They were used and abused.
And now we pray to God to help us to remember our own heritage as we meet our neighbours in the strangers on our streets.
We pray for courage to trade fairly and to work for freedom.
Help us to be trustworthy and just in all our relationships and dealings with every person.
Fire our hearts with your love, that we might always strive for freedom and justice.
We make our prayer for the sake of our neighbours and in memory of all who have suffered. Amen.

The following hymn or ‘Be known to us in breaking bread’

I vow to love my neighbour, whatever race or creed

I vow to love my neighbour, whatever race or creed,
to join her in her suffering, to plead with him in need.
This love will always question, will search out right and wrong,
will give itself for justice, for those who don't belong.
This love will never falter, till every soul is free,
till nations held in bondage can sing of liberty.

Through scenes of devastation, through famine, drought and war,
we'll work in ways of gentleness, work hard till we restore
the vision of the people, the hope of human grace,
till nations dwell in peacefulness together in this place;
till all the world together can sing in joyful praise
till all have found communion together in our days.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

And we now move to our remembrance:

Mark 14.10–25

The following hymn or ‘Author of life divine’

Bread of life and cup of blessing

Bread of life and cup of blessing,
taken in humility,
help us stand in need together,
strengthened by humanity.

Here the bread is taken, broken,
while our broken lives display
need of love from one another,
need of comfort in this day.

As the wine is poured in blessing,
common cup to pass and share;
equally, we offer gladly
patient love, attentive care.

Held by bonds that can't be broken,
strong in solidarity;
bread of life and cup of blessing,
symbolize our unity.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2009 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

The sharing – Bread and water are shared with people serving one another.

The following hymn or ‘Because thou hast said’

The stranger is welcomed, the enemy blessed

The stranger is welcomed, the enemy blessed,
a scandalous gospel that Jesus professed;
but can we adopt such a dangerous stance,
forgetful forgiveness, love caught in a glance?

We harbour resentment and hatred is rife;
the past shades the present and fractures each life;
we love to be certain, to cage or constrain,
the people who challenge we view with disdain.

God let us be Christ to the ones that we meet,
as willing to serve as to sit at your feet.
God give us the courage to see in each face,
the Christ who has shown how to live with your grace.
Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2009 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England . Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

May God who has led his people through the ages lead us on the paths of peace out into the world to serve and to work in his name. Amen

After the blessing an ordinary informal meal may be shared while conversation continues.