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Harvest Service 18th September 2005

Bacton Village Hall 11:30

This is an example of a cafe-style service we did in Bacton in 2005. A small group of us planned it with the clear aim of making it accessible to non-churchgoers; "church for people who don't do church" was the way I put it. We had some stuff from Tearfund which included some prayer sheets and videos about the Tuareg of the Sahel in North Africa.

I decided to shoot some video as well. I asked a lot of people just one question, "What does harvest mean to you?" I asked both church folk and non-church folk in the village. This was then cut together and provided the 'sermon'. I also got one of the local farmers to let me know when his field was being combined and got some good harvest shots to add colour.

The idea for the exercise with the letters came from the internet but the group modified and improved it by adding the notion of putting the letters on the backs of volunteers (mainly children) so that they didn't know what letter they were carrying. This led to a lot of 'audience participation' and the messages really sank in.

The 'confession' was a variation of a 'put a stone in a bowl' exercise which I've seen used at several alt.worship services. The problem with it is that the stone, representing my sin, stays in the bowl as an ever-present reminder of my rotten state. By using sugar lumps (naturally present in a cafe environment) and bowls of warm water we were confident (because we tested it) that the 'sins' would indeed be washed away.

There were no service sheets; indeed, there wasn't a single piece of congregational spoken liturgy in the conventional sense yet the service followed the structure of the Anglican Service of the Word very fully. Normal church starts at 10:30 am. This started an hour later because everybody was invited to stay on for a harvest lunch (no charge was made for the lunch).

The service was very well received, though one person complained becasue harvest festival was not 'in church'. We noticed a number of things:

The following 'running order' gives an indication of what we did.


Start with tea & coffee

Served at tables


We are here to celebrate and give thanks for harvest and to remember those for harvest is a time of disappointment. We focus on our own harvest here and we also look at the Tuareg on North Africa and how their lives are being affected by global warming.

We all light our candles

For many of us here this is not just about earthly things. We believe that there is a higher dimension—that God is also intimately involved in harvest and that he is present with us in our celebration. As a sign of his presence we light the candle on our tables. (If you feel uncomfortable with this, feel free to leave the candle unlit.)

Sing: We plough the fields

Words on screen

H*A*R*V*E*S*T game

7 volunteers, letters on their backs, congregation tells them to move to make H A R V E S T. Then talk about harvest is about what we H A V E But for some people there is no harvest only S T A R V E. There is enough; God wants us to S H A R E.

Tuareg video from Tearfund

The Tuareg aren’t starving just yet—though many in Niger are—but the difference between what we have and what they have is getting bigger, not smaller


Think of something you do which harms the developing world; something which is harming the planet (give examples). Are you sorry? Could you make a resolution to change? If so, in the silence (or music?) take a lump of sugar and drop it into the bowl of water [bowls of warm water were placed on the tables just before the start of the service], so that it can dissolve away. Do the same with something personal, something you have done which you know is wrong or something you keep on doing which, deep down, you want to stop. Just give these things to God; he is waiting to forgive us all.

Absolution—use letters again

Jesus came to make things better. Through Jesus God is waiting to S A V E us from those things which drag us down or hold us back.

Sing (basic songs on screen)

Thank you Lord for this fine day (our good harvest, etc. people choose verses) and & He’s got the whole world (people choose verses)


Bacton vox pops video


Give me joy in my heart

Bible reading

Mark 6: 31-44—feeding of 5K.

Pray—video meditation from Tearfund; Tuareg with Mark 6 words

Use video meditation; watch it, listen to music, pray your own prayers, just as you choose. Children can colour in or do prayer sheet if they wish.




Come ye thankful people come

Final words



 Hand out quiz while waiting for lunch.