The Sunday Communion
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Date: August 2007


 

'We were invited to write our names on strips of gummed paper. These were then linked together into a paper chain.'

 

Lev Eakins enjoyed Greenbelt’s Sunday Morning Communion Service

For this year's Greenbelt Communion Service Sanctus1, an emerging church in Manchester, were given the reigns of the Sunday morning communion service, and delighted many with their excellent service.

The newly configured main stage helped access and capacity, but the wind made the sound difficult to carry to those on the outside of the area so I wandered over to the more intimate Arena stage where a live video link up made it possible to follow the service from there.

We were encouraged to form into groups of 15 and were given a paper bag full of items needed for the service along with a red helium filled balloon and lots of things for children to do. Great idea!

Chain

The service had started when I joined a group from Newcastle who I got to know when we were invited to write our names on strips of gummed paper. These were then linked together into a paper chain, and it was a helpful ice breaker.

The Love and Joy Gospel choir from Liverpool, in superb voice, led us through a couple of great songs before we were given an address by Ann Morisy.

She compared our struggle as Christians to that experienced by recovering alcoholics, drawing on the 12 step programme as examples of how we can deliver justice to the world.

I was aching for her to quote from George Bush’s “ America is addicted to oil!” speech – but alas the comparisons stopped short.

A Sanctus1 duo, Janet and Stephen, led us through a sung response to the prayers; “Hear us, hear us, hear us now”. The repetitive nature of this response progressively built an impressive rhythm, and we were encouraged to look at our (biodegradable) balloons and think about the people and areas we wanted to pray for. Then the balloons, more than 1,000 of them, were released and the blue sky was dotted with red.

The symbolism of this event was particularly stunning as they quickly rose through the cloudless sky, carrying our hopes and prayers heavenward.

Confession

The confession was neatly configured for this year’s theme of “Heaven in Ordinary” as the response asked God to “forgive us and bring heaven to the ordinary”. One particular section, we confessed to the Spirit of Truth that:

“We are appalled at the global suffering we see on our televisions, yet, often we are blind to the injustices on our streets”

This was particularly fitting given the current media attention to youth violence and the associated alienation in urban Britain.

After this we where asked to pick out a small plastic bottle of wine and bread roll from our paper bag in preparation for the communion and placed them in the centre of our chain of named paper.

From the main stage Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng of Uganda, a guest of Christian Aid, led us through the Eucharist. His recital was purposeful and bold, and when he reached the point where he was to quote Jesus saying “Take this all of you and eat...”, and he paused before and after the word “take”. In that briefest of moments, against the sound scape of silence punctuated by a slight wind, there was a sense of incredible meaning.

After the final hymn, Bishop Nelson also gave the final blessing and dismissal, “May God enable us to recognise heaven in the ordinary, and empower us to bring heaven into the ordinary – go in peace and serve the Lord”.

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