We had an excellent Pentecost Later Service last night. It worked really well despite being deceptively simple in structure.
We started with an explanation and then listened to three songs that in various ways explore what it means to be human in today's world - U2's Magnificent, the Killers Human (my favourite single of recent months) and Brett Dennen's Aint No Reason. People were invited to chat about how they felt about the songs as they played (they had lyric sheets to help them).
For further exploration we had three zones - one with the newspapers, one with notes on the section of Mark's Gospel we'd reached by yesterday and an art zone. In each of these people were invited to explore how we express our humanity in the worlds of work and politics, arts and culture.
The same questions were displayed in each zone - What does it mean to be human? What’s our calling as humans? What’s my calling? What does the Holy Spirit have to do with this? - plus some more specific ones.
Having meandered between zones for half an hour, we came back together for some liturgy and simple illustrative rituals - washing our hands to symbolise the cleansing that comes through the Spirit, drinking water as a symbol of refreshment and being anointed with oil as a sign of being filled with the Spirit to live as the people God calls us to be.
It was all very simple. yet it was a very profound evening. One reason for this was that we'd learned of the death of a regular member of our later service and the format gave space for those particularly affected by the news.
But I think something else was going on which is that when people are given freedom to explore a fairly well focused subject, that's what they do. And while they do that in a variety of ways, God is able to creep in around the edges and surprise us.
So, it was a good, simple and in many ways profound evening where lots of us encountered God in ways that aren't often possible in church.