The theme for the Christian Unity Service 2020 was “unusual kindness”, which centred on the events told in the Acts of the Apostles of St Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta. Holy Cross Parish in Carshalton agreed to host the service in Unity Week (January) and I was responsible for calling upon the members of Churches Together to join us in uniting in prayer and worship. One of the challenges was producing a nautical theme in a landlocked village.
A large Turner picture of a shipwreck was projected on the church wall, and the sounds of creaking ships’ timbers and storm were played to create atmosphere. So far so good!
As an island nation, boats are an important part of Maltese life and for that reason, the Christian churches of Malta suggested in the notes for the service, that a boat or a large model of a boat be placed in the worship space. I was very sceptical that this could be achieved and said so at one of our weekly church coffee mornings. Oh ye of little faith!
A voice piped up, “We have a boat!” I laughed in disbelief but was soon astonished to be shown a wonderful antique fishing boat complete with sails and fishing nets. It was very small but perfect in detail and it could be the focus of our service.
Another challenge was during the prayers of the people seven oars would be brought forward bearing the words: Trust, Perseverance, Harmony, Courage, Unusual Kindness, Transformation and Generosity. Each oar was to be held high during the petitions. The oars on our tiny boat were tiny so what to do?
It was decided to provide planks as symbols of ships’ decking – they were big enough to be seen from a distance and all went well. Since the service, these planks have been displayed on the window sills of our church and are quite powerful as a meditation aid. One young child was recently seen tracing her finger along the letters of the word “Harmony”. A charming image.