the memory of water – greenbelt worship

This is the ‘script’ for worship… wish it were possible to put up the rabbit proof fence clip… all credit to Ben, Sarah, Craig, Nic for participating in a flawed process and making something good out of it… and to Ray, Jenny, Peter and Darren for turning up on the day and making it work…

Set up
Front of the room: screen with projected still of ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ salt pan with ‘the memory of water’ written across the bottom. ripped up pages of bible tossed around the floor.

Intro who we are, context, shape of worship.


Voice 1
[selected verses from John 4]
Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. And when he came to Sychar, a Samaritan city, he was tired out by his journey, and sat by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty…’

Rabbit Proof Fence clip: ‘There was water here once’
scene: Daisy and Grace are walking across the salt pan
music: David Bridie’s ‘Salt’
words written over clip:

There was water here once,
in the beginning.

So much that the world overflowed with it.

It was the voice of God that pushed the water to the side,
and it left, in its wake,

dry edges
and arid centres

earth, with cracks so deep,
we could lose ourselves in them.


all testament to the story
that there was water here once.

It’s easy to be thirsty
when the water is everywhere.

And for a while, when it dries up,
it’s fine.
There are wells that run deep
from hidden springs.

But after a time
even the underground rivers run dry.

And when you have been in the desert too long,

the cracks no longer testify that there was water here once
they speak only of its absence.

you lose the taste of water.
you lose the courage to thirst.

Sometimes faith is having confidence that rain will fall again
sometimes it’s knowing where water is to be found.

and sometimes it’s just having the courage to be found here,

and arid

Welcome to worship

Invite people to move to stations

prayers for the world

[Words to psalm laid out, response transparencies, bowl of salt]

You visit the earth
and water it.
If we have no water,
have you stopped
dropping by?

The river of God
runs full and far:
if our rivers are dry,
have you run away?

Meadows are not clothed with flocks,
valleys are not decked with grain;
there is no song of joy in the land
in its abundant lack of rain.

How can we sing the Lord’s song
in this strange land?

[written by Sarah Agnew]

Response and instructions:

It seems that neither gods
nor clouds
are of our making.

We wish the world were different
and maybe sometimes we wish you were too, God.

Where are the places in the world, where rain has not fallen and where prayers have not been answered?

taste the salt – and make your protest or your prayer to god.


prayers for ourself
[a loop of a small part of the salt pan walk from Rabbit Proof Fence on computers
bowls of water on brown paper]

We turn our face towards hazy seas
that beckon us from the horizon.

we hesitate with fear that their promise is a mirage

no longer sure of any map,
no longer trusting the words of ancient wisdom,
we pray they do not have it wrong.

what is the act of faith that is beyond you?
what is the hope you are not able to trust?
what is the ancient wisdom that you can no longer hear?

write your prayer into the water



[‘bed’ of sand, letters SOS torn out of sandpaper and laid on top, sheets of sandpaper]

Make your prayer of confession, or your plea for help with the sandpaper.



[bed of sand, ripped out pages of bible for people to ‘wrap’ sand in]

When the cracks first appear
in the soil of our faith
our instinct is to cover them over
with artificial turf or concrete
[someone else’s prayers, another’s declaration of faith]

just so no-one will notice
and deem us neglectful,

They say we just need more faith,
that of course there’s water to be found,
we’re just looking in the wrong place
[sing this song! pray this prayer! we’ll baptise you!].
Pretend the cracks aren’t there
and one day they won’t be.

But the songs no longer work
and the promises are empty

the waters of baptism only drown us in loneliness.

They may say we need more faith
but we know the faith it takes to stand here
and parched

naked in the truth we can’t go back, and that there seems no way forward;

barely remembering the touch of water
and not believing rain will ever come again.

if you stand here cracked and parched, take a handful of sand, let it trickle onto the ground in the shape of your story.

and if you can honour the faith that is held in another’s story
take some of the sand with you…


the well

[a dinged up metal bucket, a ladle, sitting on brown paper or black plastic, glasses, people to pour glasses of water]

Sometimes faith is having confidence that rain will fall again
sometimes it’s knowing where water is to be found

and sometimes it’s just having the courage to be here,
and arid.

rest for a while.
if you would like, there is water here for your journey.

Gather back and send out
[ziplock bags of salt]

Perhaps it is blind faith to have confidence that rain will come again
and easy cynicism to say we will never find a well

Let your thirst be your faith,
let the memory of water haunt you

so that if it rains, you can stand with hands open

and if you see a well, you will know it is yours to drink.

If you cannot leave with faith,
leave with courage.

If you cannot leave with hope,
go yearning…



  1. Debra Watkins

    just wanted you to know that I’m going to use this over a few weeks with students at FBC Austin. thanks for posting your beautiful worship/debra

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