A group of people associated with the Nightclub Chaplaincy in Bournemouth have run 'Church for the Night' quarterly for over five years. These are wonderful events where hundreds of passers-by drift in and out of St Peter's church in the heart of the club strip in the centre of town. We open from 11pm to 4am and there are all sorts of creative installations, poetry, music and the opportunity to pray that would never normally be available at this time of night. They truly are wonderful events but each one a mammoth task, each one with days of preparation. We were keen to experiment with the possibility of a short low-key version of the same basic ethos. To hack down a clearing in the jungle of life, a deliberate space and time where everything is designed so that an encounter with a living God is incredibly likely.

So last Sunday we had our first of these experiments. Brick. Similar in feel to 'Church for the Night' but lead through rather than open for people to pass through. All over in an hour, 8-9pm on a Sunday evening.

Here is the plan we put together. It's a slight mix of our plan, with some explanation of what happened, please excuse the mixing of the tenses. I cannot take credit for the prayers they have been collected and adapted from various sources.

Brick | a short reflective evening service

On the way in, rather than being handed a notice sheet or hymn book each person was given a brick. We then made no mention of it until 10 minutes into the service.

It was lead or guided through by a two main voices, a male and a female voice works well.

Voice 1: We have come here this evening, each of us bringing that which is of God within us.
Jesus said, "Where two or three come together in my name, I am there among them."

Voice 2: Oh God, our father and our friend,
sometimes you seem to play hide and seek with us,
hiding from us in the desert times,
yet calling us by name when we least expect it.
Even though we are so lost in our concerns that we do not always hear your voice,
please join us in our prayers again this night,
filling our hearts with your love and life-giving hope.

WELCOME Thanks for coming. Explain nature of service, give permission to use space and time however is helpful but that we would be leading it through for people to engage with if that was useful. Explain that this is something of an experiment and invite others to enjoy but also to feed back, as we are experimenting together.

Voice 1: Out of the silence at the beginning of time,
You spoke the word of life.
Out of the world's primeval darkness
You flooded the universe with light.
In the dark of this place
I choose to quiet myself
I wait and watch.
In the stillness of my soul
And from its fathomless depths
The senses of my heart are awake to you.
For fresh soundings of life
For new showings of light
I search in the silence of my spirit, O God.

SILENCE (two minutes ish?)

Voice 2: You see us, as we wait here,
(Very Slow) You know us.
Let us see you, as we wait here,
Let us know you.

MUSIC A short instrumental piece of music is played.

Voice 1: In the silence stand if you're able.
I invite you to close your eyes.
Feel the weight of the brick.
Invite the spirit to bring to mind something it can resemble for you, that burdens you.
Maybe you know instantly what it is?
Maybe you need to ponder for a moment?
Feel it's weight.
Maybe it's a burden of your own?
Maybe an ongoing struggle?
Maybe an old one?
Maybe a new one?
Maybe it's a hanging cloud, a looming fear of uncertainty... or of the seemingly inevitable?
Maybe it's some shame or hanging guilt?
Maybe it's not your burden at all but one that relationships around you, or work pressures or some other exterior force have laden upon you?
Maybe something specific, personal and completely different?
Feel the brick.
Feel it's weight, it's hardness and it's rough corners and edges.
Not natural.
Not comfortable.

When you're ready, open your eyes.
We're going to journey around the church building together each with our brick.

Let's begin by gathering here at the front of the nave.

Voice 2: John is 34. Born and bred in a small town. He writes for a living. He has 5 very close friends and is friendly with many. He has his good days but he also has his bad days. John takes refuge in walking down the street. He takes comfort in the hard stone beneath his feet, the crisp air against his face and the constant hum of the traffic filling his ears. People passing him with no idea of the load he bears and the worries he has. He greets strangers with Good Morning's and Good Afternoon's in a cheery disposition, trying not to give a clue of the weight that lays heavy upon his sore, aching shoulders. He had everything under control.

(Journey together to an area behind the altar)

Each day the burdens he carries grow heavier. The Good Morning's are harder to say and the Good Afternoon's are no longer said with feeling. He was sliding into a valley of darkness with brick upon brick rising up to block his vision so he could see no clear way of finding light or his path.

(Journey together to an the side chapel)

A new day and still no amount of pretending helps him clear his thoughts of anything but of that which troubles him. Things that used to be comforting could not interfere with John's constant internal battle. Joy and hope was replaced with sorrow and confusion.
When alone he would cry, "Oh God, let me sleep. My mind is distracted and my heart hurts. I can't keep up with life and it's fears. Is there hope? Is there a future? Is there a peace for my spirit?"

(Journey together to the back of the church)

Voice 1: Jesus says to John. To me and to you.

"Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

From here explain that we are about to turn the corner and head down the side isle, each still holding our bricks and remembering what is was representing for each of us. As we approach the other side chapel altar, above which hangs a life sized crucifix, and onto which we had projected. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (This projection was only revealed at that moment.) Invite people to lay there bricks at the foot of the altar and from there to wait, or to find some space in the church, or to pray with one another.

Turning the corner and heading for Jesus above the altar was incredibly powerful and people walked incredibly slowly as felt appropriate. As they were our pianist began to play, and after a long instrumental, sing a piano only version of 'There is' by the band Bosh.

Pianist: There is healing
There is wholeness
There is love here for the broken

Come lay your burdens
Come lay your heartache
Come lay your head down on me

There is a better way
There is a brighter day
There is love here for the broken

There is an empty grave
There is a broken chain
There is love here for the broken

We then had an awkwardly long but perfect 11 minutes of absolute silence. Wonderful.

Voice 2: Silence can be rare,
Stillness can be rare,
But Father we thank you for this chance to be here together this evening in the assurance that
You see us, as we wait here,
You know us.

In a moment, if and when you are ready we are going to gather in the side chapel.

Voice 1: In groups of three, read Psalm 91 together (which we had printed out and placed on the chairs around the side chapel.) In your groups, share with one another your reflections. Any verses that particularly speak to you, encourage you, challenge you?

(5 minutes)

Lead feedback from groups and share with all, thoughts and reflections.

(We asked the vicar to lead us in the Lord's Prayer.)

Voice 2: The blessing of God,
whose love created all life and brought you to birth,
be with you this day.

The blessing of God,
whose love transforms our living and reconciles us to the divine and to one another,
be with you always.

The blessing of God,
whose love inspires love, fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace,
that you may live faithfully together,
and in the age to come, have everlasting life.


Voice 1: Thanks for joining us is this experiment, please let us know you thoughts. The next one is 12/6/11. Feel free to wait here longer if you want, but this is the end. (whole service took 48 mins)

During the service one us had snuck out and hung a sign on the wall opposite the church door for people to see on the way out, (but not the way in!) 'Go in peace to love and serve the Lord! Goodnight.'

Stupidly, didn't think to get any photos of this... sorry! I will for the next one. Which you are of course welcome to!