Stone Soup Worship

a worship experience based on the book, Stone Soup and inspired by the Quaker tradition of open worship.

In the book, Stone Soup – some hungry soldiers come to a village. The villagers are afraid that the soldiers might eat all their food, so they hide it all away. The soldiers arrive hungry, and upon learning that the villagers have no food, decide to make “stone soup.” All they need is a pot of water and a stone, they say. The villagers are intrigued by this idea of making soup from some water and a stone, so they get the soldiers what they need to begin the soup. Oh, but the soup tastes so much better with carrots, the soldiers say. A villager then realizes they have some carrots they could contribute, so they get the carrots for the soldiers to add to the soup. Oh, but the soup tastes so much better with onions, the soldiers say – but too bad the villagers don’t have any food to spare. A villagers then realizes they have some onions they could contribute, and some children even bring some salt and pepper to add. One by one the villagers each add one thing to the pot of “stone soup” – until the soup ends up being full of potatoes and barley and beef and all kinds of other good things. The whole village ends up celebrating together with a feast – a feast that began with a pot of water and a stone.

Stone Soup Worship is a worship experience based on this sharing of resources and the belief that God has given us each a unique set of gifts to offer the community. When the Stone Soup community shared their resources, everyone benefitted from them – much like is spoken of the early church in the book of Acts. Not only did the whole community benefit from each person’s contribution, but they were transformed by the shared experience in such a way that excited them and inspired even more sharing.

The stone soup community learned the value of each person’s uniqueness. They learned to value what each person could bring to the pot of soup that fed the whole community. They realized that they were better together than they were apart. As we value each other’s contributions and encourage one another and lift each other up, we all benefit from this mutual relationship built on God’s love. We are created for this kind of connection and we are called to be in relationship with one another and to share what resources we have for the benefit of all. Those resources can be tangible – money, food, flood buckets, disaster cleanup, laundry detergent. Or they can be relational –A listening ear, a phone call to a friend; an encouraging text message or card; quality time spent with loved ones; a hug or a smile. What do you have to contribute? what unique gift do you have to offer the community?

So what does Stone Soup Worship look like? It’s different every time!
Because the experience is based on who shows up and what they contribute, Stone Soup Worship doesn’t always look or feel the same. The invitation is, come…and bring something to share – and trust the Holy Spirit to act as a guide.

For Leaders:
Begin by starting with “the pot of water and a stone.” Stone Soup was started by the soldiers by offering an idea “we’re going to make soup” and some concrete starter pieces “with a pot of water and a stone.” The idea is, “we’re going to have worship experience.” Your concrete starter pieces are up to you:

  • Something to set the space and the invitation for people to be present in the space: a campfire circle; or tables/chairs in a dining hall; a spot on the hiking trail; or a traditional sanctuary setting
  • Something to inspire people to think of what they can contribute: a scripture passage or a song, a poem or your event/group theme; a guiding question or meditation

The invitation is to bring something that contributes to the shared experience – something that everyone can benefit from. It could be an offering such as a song, a poem, a piece of art, a story, a scripture, or a prayer. Or it could be an experience such as a question that guides meditation or sharing aloud.

Note: not everyone has to share. Not everyone has to share what they brought. Some people may not feel comfortable sharing – that is okay. As the leader, find a way to honor each person’s participation/contribution even if their contribution is simply to be present in the space. Acknowledge the power of sitting together in silence and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. You may find it helpful to read the section here called “the practice of sitting together in silence.”

For Participants:
Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you discern what to contribute. Just because you may be a musical person doesn’t mean you have to bring a song; perhaps you may be called to share a story or read a poem, or to simply sit in silence and hold space for others. Consider the prompt given in the invitation and simply ask, “God, what would you have me contribute?”

Bringing nothing is okay. Bringing more than one thing to share is okay. (Some of the villagers contribute carrots AND onions. Some just showed up to the feast to celebrate with the gathered community.)

Appreciate sitting in silence with the group and simply breathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. When you feel prompted to share, do so.

Things that people have contributed:

  • Songs, prayers, stories, poems, art; guided meditation, body prayers
  • An invitation to share a high/low from your life
  • An invitation to share how you have experienced God lately
  • An invitation to share prayer concerns or joys
  • A group activity such as:
    • writing on a piece of paper and throwing it into a fire;
    • gathering sticks or leaves from the surrounding area and building an altar together;
    • laying hands on someone in the group & praying for them;
    • offering words of affirmation for each person in the group

What questions do you have about this experience? If you’ve tried it, how did it go?

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