Feast or Famine: A Fresh Approach to Worship at Greenbelt 2016

If I am honest, I often find worship at Greenbelt a mixed bag; including the beautiful, the ludicrous, the clichéd, the over-done, the innovative and the moving. I feel sorry for those responsible for leading sessions on the worship programme; it must be a nigh on impossible task to lead worship that works with a broad bunch of folk, but which feels fresh and interesting. In "Feast and Famine" Alex and Jo, both training to be URC Ministers, found a good balance. The often-used themes of feast and famine and bread were weaved together through prayers, readings and reflections; drawing on familiar concepts and imagery. Sometimes we spoke metaphorically of famine or bread. Other times we engaged in the very real concerns of those who lack food.

The worship opened gently, with a helpful and not too wordy introduction, setting out the theme and offering helpful advice on how to participate in the worship. Throughout the worship there was unaccompanied singing (a real treat for me), and we opened with the common chant “come all you people”. Opening prayers followed a Trinitarian formula, but with rich and colourful language; “Creator God... source of love and wholeness...wild goose of justice, God amongst us, child and man, breaker of chains, host of feasts” with the congregational response “we come to this place to worship you”. We then heard readings from Exodus 16; the story of God providing Manna in the desert using food and bread as a metaphor for sustaining and looking after ourselves.    

This led into prayers of praise and thanksgiving, again with congregational responses: “we praise you and thank you, trusting that you will feed us” and a version of the Lord’s Prayer from New Zealand which I am sure I will borrow for worship that I lead at some stage! Singing “Our God is an awesome God” was a lovely reminder that repetitive chants which congregations can pick up don’t always come from Iona and Taize.

The focal point of the worship was a mindfulness exercise concentrating on the gluten-free bread and grapes which were distributed and which we shared in eating with those around us. I seldom stop to consider food in such detail. It is really nice food I might momentarily pause to acknowledge that it tastes really good. But generally it just gets shovelled in, so there was something quite special about stopping and taking a few moments to consider a bread bun and some grapes in great detail.

To respond to our encounters in worship so far we heard Paul’s letter to the Corinthians admonishing them for the inequality in their Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:17-25) followed by voices calling out from the congregation with challenging questions: “why are people hungry?”, “why do some people have so much?”

Longer prayers, which mingled all the themes we had looked at together, broken up with the chant “O Lord hear our prayer” followed, but it is perhaps the words of dismissal which best capture the tone, flavour and themes of the service: “We have come before God – creator of love, breath of life, Lord of all. We have worshipped. We have eaten. We have celebrated. We have mourned. We have questioned. Lead us, God, into each of our tomorrows being fed and feeding others in faith, hope and love.”