Family Service
St. Augustine's

February 29 2004

Key :

instructions for congregation
movements during service
prayers and readings
sections of the service

Other information :

There are some notes on our production of the service.

A rough plan of the church is available.

A note on copyright.



( For directions for setting the scene before the action, see the notes. )
Narrator We welcome you here in the name of Jesus. May He speak to each one of us in the stillness of our hearts.

There will be no collection taken during this service. There is a donation box at the back of the church for anyone who would like to give a donation.

Some "house keeping" information -

  • If anyone would like the music for our hymns today, please put up your hand and we will bring it to you.
  • Toilets are between the church and the hall
  • If anyone is new here and would like to go on the Church list, which entitles you to receive the Messenger three or four times a year, and other benefits, then please fill in the card at the end of the seats and hand it to one of the helpers after the service.
  Please stand for the hymn  :

Tell me the old old story.

( Father, two sons, Critic-1 and Critic-2 sit on the chairs at the front during the last verse of this hymn. )

1.   Tell me the old, old story
  Of unseen things above,
  Of Jesus and His glory,
  Of Jesus and His love.
  Tell me the story simply,
  As to a little child;
  For I am weak and weary
  And helpless, and defiled.

Chorus :
  Tell me the old, old story,
  Of Jesus and His love.

2.   Tell me the story slowly,
  That I may take it in -
  That wonderful redemption
  God's remedy for sin.
  Tell me the story often,
  For I forget so soon;
  The early dew of morning
  Has passed away at noon.


3.   Tell me the story softly,
  With earnest tones and grave;
  Remember, I'm the sinner
  Whom Jesus came to save
  Tell me the story always,
  If you would really be
  In any time of trouble
  A comforter to me.


4.   Tell me the same old story
  When you have cause to fear
  That this world's empty glory
  Is costing me too dear.
  Yes, and, when that world's glory
  Shall dawn upon my soul,
  Tell me the old, old story -
  Christ Jesus makes me whole.


Narrator Please sit.

The beginning : leaving home

Narrator Stories !

We all love stories, and the Bible is full of them.

Some stories in the Bible, such as those about Jesus and those about God's people, tell us of events that really took place.

Other stories in the Bible are stories which are told to illustrate a way of life that God wants us to follow. These stories are called parables.

Jesus was a great story-teller, and this morning we will act one of these parables that He told to the crowds who followed Him.

If you would like to follow the story in the Bible you will find it in Luke, Chapter 15 verses 11-32, on page 1151 of the church Bibles.

There was once a man

( points to the father, who stands up )
 who had two sons.
( points to two sons, who stand up ).
 The younger son was dissatisfied with his life at home.
( Younger son acts dissatisfied etc ).
 He couldn't settle to any of the work that needed to be done. He was unable to get on with his brother or his father and was always restless and discontented causing lots of friction within the family and the community.

He longed to be able to leave home and go and "live it up" in a big city.

One day he said to his father :

Younger son Father - give me my share of the property now. I'm fed up of living on this backwoods farm. I want to get out and see some life in a big city; do let me have my share NOW !
( Pause, while Father mimes a time of distress and hard thinking. )
Narrator It was a very hard decision for the father to make, but in the end he divided the property between the two sons.
( Father hands over a legal-looking piece of paper to each of the sons.
Sons look at the papers and put them safely away.
Buyer comes to front from front pew on organ side with money in his pocket. )
Narrator A few days later the younger son sold his property.
( The younger son goes to the centre to meet the buyer, hands over his 'paper' and receives money from the buyer, the buyer goes back to his seat, and the younger son, waving the money, goes to show it to his father and elder brother. )
Younger son ( excitedly ) Look, I've sold my share of the property and I've got ALL THIS MONEY ! !
I'm off to the big city.
See ya !
( Younger son goes running down centre aisle waving all his money. Father and elder son look at each other in despair, part of their family property sold ).
Narrator A few days later the elder son said to his father -
Elder son I've been thinking about everything that has been happening in these last few days.

It's been a hard decision but I've decided to stay here with you.

I know that there will be days when it is hard to settle down to the work here, especially when I think of my younger brother enjoying life in the big city, but I want to be part of the family and to do the work that is necessary to keep the rest of our property together and to build it up.

Therefore I hand this back to you ( handing over the paper ).

Father I was wondering what you would choose to do and I'm delighted you have chosen to stay here as part of this family. I'm sure that we'll have rewarding times as we work together as a team.

I've also made a decision about your younger brother. I know that I will always love him, and I am determined to remember him with love each day, and to wait, watch and pray for his return to us one day.

( Father and elder son sit down on chairs against the wall; the Critics move to centre for their conversation.

Leaper's friend moves to the altar rail by the wall ready for the Leaper's arrival.  )

Freedom and responsibility.

Critic-1 What do you think of that ? The younger son walking off with all that money - he's so lucky !
Critic-2 I'm not sure that he is all that lucky.

I wonder what he'll do with all the money ?

Do you think he'll spend it all, or use it wisely to prepare for the future ?

Critic-1 Ooh - spend it all, of course ! That's what I'd do.

Just think - new clothes, rich food, a lovely place to live, wonderful life doing just what he likes ! I do envy him.

Critic-2 Well - spending some of it might be all right, but what if he spends all of it ?

Then how will he live ? - it'll be a very long time before they invent unemployment benefits !

Critic-1 Oh, something would turn up. It's bound to.
Critic-2 Isn't it amazing that his father would give him so much freedom ?
Critic-1 Freedom - that's what we all want and he got it - GREAT !
Critic-2 Yes, he did, but freedom without responsibility can be a dangerous thing, and I'm very much afraid that this young man hasn't realised it yet.
Critic-1 Oh, who wants to bother with responsibility ?
( Critic-1 and Critic-2 sit down at the side. )
Narrator Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Thank You, Father God, that in You we find freedom. Help us to use that freedom wisely and not to neglect our responsibilities as members of Your family. Amen.

Prayerfully we sing :

All Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise,
In deeper reverence praise.
Narrator Please stand to sing the hymn :

Lord, I will

Omitted for copyright reasons; further details.
( In the last verse of this hymn the inn-keeper comes to sit on the chair in front of the altar. )

The adventure : the Big City

Narrator Please sit.
( Younger son comes down organ side aisle with his money. )
Younger son I'm here, I've finally made it to the big city, it looks wonderful.
But there are all these people and animals clogging up the streets.
All this noise and the smell, it's so different from what I expected, and yet, in some ways it's just what I expected.
What do I do now ?
How do I find somewhere to stay ?
( Pauses; looks around; sees the innkeeper. )
 That looks like a classy sort of inn - I'll go in there and see if they have a room I can rent.
( Younger son goes into the inn - met by the inn-keeper who looks down his nose at him as he is still in 'country' clothes. )
Younger son ( to inn-keeper ) Can I hire a room ?
Inn-keeper ( looking him up and down ) Don't think we have anything suitable. This is an expensive inn.
Younger son ( showing a wad of money ) Oh, I can pay, I've got lots of money.
Inn-keeper ( suddenly looking much more interested ) Well, as long as you pay in advance.
( Inn-keeper shows younger son a room. )
 Will this room do ?
Younger son Yes, it looks very nice.
Inn-keeper Well, you can have it provided you pay for a week in advance.
How long do you want it for ?
( Younger son and Innkeeper move back to centre. )
Younger son I'm not sure. I'll let you know when I want to leave.
Here's this week's money.

( Gives money to the inn-keeper who counts it carefully then sits down on the chair again. Younger son goes back to look round the room again, and goes out saying : )
 Now to find some shops.
Narrator He goes out and buys lots of things.
( Younger son mimes this several times. )
Younger son ( to imaginary shopkeeper ) ( Either : ) Send these goods to the Inn ( pointing to the inn; after each such purchase the innkeeper mimes receiving a parcel and putting it in the room. )

( Or : ) I'll wear this.

( Finally younger son returns to the Inn, miming wearing new clothes; the inn-keeper looks at his new clothes and gives him a smile. )
Younger son ( to inn-keeper ) I hope my new stuff has arrived from the shops.
Innkeeper ( now respectfully ) Oh yes, sir. There's been stuff arriving all afternoon. It's been put in your room.
Younger son I'll go and look at it then.
( Goes into room where he moves around unpacking all his goods )
Narrator The young man settled into his room, then he began to feel hungry and he came out again.
Younger son ( to inn-keeper ) Where's a good place to eat and drink ?
Inn-keeper There are lots of places all round. You could try our dining room - or there is a good wine shop just across the street.
( Younger son goes out down central aisle, jingling money in his pocket and looking for a good place to enjoy his evening. )
Narrator So the younger son quickly finds his way to all the best places in town. His money and willingness to buy drinks for people quickly win him friends. These friends joyfully help him spend his money in riotous living. He is quickly drawn into a life full of gaiety and glitter.

Meanwhile, back at home

( The father and elder son stand up. )
 there is plenty of work for the father and elder son as they plough the land,
( Father and elder son act ploughing. )
 sow the seed,
( Father and elder son act sowing seed. )
 and look after the animals.

Each day the father would look down the road towards the city, longing for his other son to return, thinking how much he loved him and yearning to see him again.

( Acted by father, looking down the centre aisle. )
( Father and elder son sit down. Critic-1 and Critic-2 stand up. )

- but what sort of wonders ?

Critic-1 Look at that - the younger son is having a marvellous time. I wish I could join him.
Critic-2 Oh no - he's buying his friends.
Critic-1 What do you mean, buying his friends ?
Critic-2 Spending all that money on them.
No wonder they all come flocking round. It's what we call cupboard love. It won't last.
Critic-1 Yes, it will. And the elder son - he's working so hard - that's no fun at all.
Critic-2 Yes, he is working hard. But there is also fulfilment in a job like that. Being able to look out over those fields and see the crop growing, and thinking, "I helped plough that land, I helped sow the seed; and look at it now - fields full of ripening corn. So satisfying. And all those animals with sleek coats and young ones bounding around; they are all part of my work".
It is so satisfying.
Critic-1 Too much like hard work for me.
( Critic-1 and Critic-2 sit down at the side. )
Narrator Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Thank you, Father God, for the chores that need doing in our homes.
Thank you for school and work;
thank you for each daily activity.
Help us to do each job cheerfully and without grumbling, so that, at the end of each day, we may look at everything we've done, both work and play, and be satisfied. Amen

Prayerfully we sing :

All Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise,
In deeper reverence praise.
Narrator Please stand for the hymn :

New every morning is the love

1.   New every morning is the love
  Our wakening and uprising prove;
  Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
  Restored to life and power and thought.

2.   New mercies each returning day
  Hover around us while we pray;
  New perils past, new sins forgiven,
  New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

3.   If on our daily course our mind
  Be set to hallow all we find,
  New treasures still, of countless price,
  God will provide for sacrifice.

4.   The trivial round, the common task,
  Will furnish all I need to ask;
  Room to deny ourselves, a road
  To bring us daily nearer God.

5.   Only, O Lord, in Thy dear love
  Fit us for perfect rest above;
  And help us, this and every day,
  To live more nearly as we pray.

( During the last verse of this hymn younger son goes down Hospital aisle to his room, "friend" sits in front pew organ side, Inn-keeper remains in his chair in front of altar. )

The awakening : where's the money ?

Younger son ( Back in his room, searching frantically ) Money, where's all my money gone ?
( Innkeeper overhears, and continues to listen intently. )
 I can't possibly have spent it all, but I'm afraid I have.
How could I have been so foolish ?
And food is so expensive now that there is a famine.
( Friend leaves his seat in front pew and moves towards the action. )
 What shall I do ?
I know - I'll get my friends to help me. After all, I've bought them so many things.
Friend ( knocking at door ) Hey, aren't you coming ?
Younger son Just looking for something.
Yes - I'd love to come with you but it's your turn to pay.
Friend Me pay ? Oh no, that's not on !
I haven't any money.
Younger son Neither have I.
( Innkeeper writes busily. )
Friend Oh - if that's the case - Bye, See ya.
( Friend returns to his seat in front pew;

Innkeeper goes to the room and knocks. )

Inn-keeper Here's your bill, and I want it paid today.
You owe us a lot.
I'll have it now.
Younger son I haven't got it.
Inn-keeper Well, let's see.
( Goes into the room )
 This ring, and these clothes, and this, and this, and this.
That should cover your bill here.
( Takes everything from the room. )
 We have someone else booked into this room tonight - so you must be out in half an hour.
( Inn-keeper comes out with arms full. )
 Phew - got rid of that young man - at last.
Now to sell these things.
( Goes down side aisle still with his arms full. )
Younger son ( looking round empty room ) Not much to pack.
Where can I go ?
( Younger son wanders slowly to back down centre aisle. )
 I'm so hungry.
What shall I do ?
Narrator The younger son looked for his friends, but they all walked off and turned their backs on him.
He got hungrier and hungrier.
And after much searching he found a job looking after pigs
( Younger son returns to front and sits down with the pigs. )
Younger son Pigs, I hate pigs.
I'm so ashamed to be looking after pigs.
I'm so hungry.
I wish I could eat the pigs' food.
Narrator But no one gave him anything to eat.
Younger son I've been such a fool.
I wish I could go home.
But, what would my father say ?
I do want to go home.
But I'm so ashamed.
What can I do ?
I keep thinking of the food that my father gives to his paid workers and wishing I could have some.
What can I do ?
I'm so hungry and ashamed.
I know.
I'll go to my Father and say
'Father, I have sinned against God and against you
I'm no longer fit to be called your son.
Treat me as one of your paid workers.'.
Narrator And he got up and started on the journey home.
( Younger son walks slowly to back;

Father and elder son stand up, and mime getting in the harvest. )

Elder son It looks like a great harvest this year.
Father Yes, and all the stock is doing well, too
But I'm still waiting and longing for your brother to come home.
Elder son He's been away such a long time. Can't you forget him ?
Father No - I could never forget one of my children. However foolish they've been, I'll never stop loving them and wanting them to be part of my family.
( Elder son and Father sit down. )

What can he do now ?

( Critic-1 and Critic-2 stand up. )
Critic-1 Look at him - looking after all those pigs - I wouldn't do that for anything especially as pigs are animals that Jews are not supposed to touch.

Yuck - pigs.

Critic-2 Yes, but none of his so-called friends would help - and surely looking after pigs is better than starving.
Critic-1 And now he's decided to return to his father, and say sorry, can I be one of your paid workers. How foolish !

He should try to get back his old position and not go crawling back to his father.

Critic-2 How could he possibly do that ? He's just wasted all his inheritance. I think he's doing it right. He wants to show that he has lost his place in the family. I hope his family accept him.
( Critics sit down; Leaper's friend moves to centre as Leaper comes leaping down centre aisle. )
Leaper's friend Hello. What are you doing here ?
Leaper I'm leaping. It's leap day. Why aren't you leaping ? ( Looks round ) Why isn't everyone leaping ?
Leaper's friend I didn't know I had to. Do you think I should ?
Leaper Well, you might try. Give it a go !
Leaper's friend ( Jumps a couple of times; Leaper jumps too ) It doesn't really seem to do much for me. What's the point ?
Leaper I didn't want to waste leap day. It comes round every four years and nothing ever happens. I thought maybe if I could get some people leaping a bit it might make the whole thing more significant. Or something.
Leaper's friend How's it going ?
Leaper Not too well, really. I've been leaping all morning, but no one's taken much notice, except that they seem to move away a bit. I did think that leaping together might be better, but when I just tried it with you it was just the same as leaping on my own. But if we do nothing, what's the point of having leap days ?
Leaper's friend Well, it's to keep the calendar in step with the year. Julius Caesar started it. The trouble is that the year isn't a whole number of days, so if you try to keep all years the same number of days long, then after a while you find that January's moved from summer to winter. And that wouldn't do.
Leaper Why not ?
Leaper's friend Because you couldn't fix dates sensibly. Some things have to stick with the seasons. If you started with your summer holidays in January, you'd have to shift their calendar dates every few years to keep them in summer. There's not much point in having a calendar at all if important things don't stand still.
Leaper What did Julius Caesar do ?
Leaper's friend Well, by that time the astronomers had measured the year pretty accurately and found it was 365 and a quarter days long, so he said that the years would be 365 days long, except once every four years when they'd stick in an extra day to make it work properly.
Leaper Easy, really, when you know. Is that all there is to it ?
Leaper's friend Well, no. Not quite. It was still a bit out - about three quarters of a day too long every century. Pope Gregory the thirteenth sorted that one out in 1582. He was worried that if no one did anything then Christmas, which is always December 25th, would eventually come at the same time as Easter, which is worked out from phases of the moon, and that would really mess up the church calendar. So he ruled that we'd take off a day three out of every four centuries - and that's why years beginning new centuries, which ought to be leap years, are usually not leap years, but 2000 was a leap year.
Leaper Look, that's really interesting. Thanks very much. ( Looks round the church. ) I say, I haven't interrupted anything, have I ?
Leaper's friend Well, yes, you have. This is our family service, and we're thinking about the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Leaper Oh, I am sorry to have messed up whatever you were doing.
Leaper's friend Oddly enough, you haven't. You've just given us another example of how easy it is for all of us to mess up the world by making decisions without taking account of the consequences. The Prodigal Son thought he could just take off with his money and do whatever he wanted, but it didn't work; the people who first made the calendars just guessed, and got it wrong, and it took hundreds of years to sort out. The calendar didn't really matter very much - it was just inconvenient - but some of the decisions we make can hurt a lot of people if we get them wrong.
Leaper I'll remember that. Just one more question, though - where does the leaping come in ?
Leaper's friend Nobody seems to know for sure. The best guess is that after the leap day the dates on the calendar, instead of just moving one day forwards in the week, suddenly start jumping two days.
Leaper ( Stops leaping. ) Is that all ? That's not much to leap about. Maybe I'll just walk home.
Leaper's friend There's plenty to leap about if you want it. That's the point of the parable - even when we do mess things up, if we're really sorry then God will forgive us and let us start again. That's something that might make you jump for joy !
Leaper ( happily ) Hey, Yes ! That's a lot better than a musty old calendar ! ( Starts leaping again ) Thanks a lot ! Good-bye ! ( Exit down aisle, leaping. )
( Leaper's friend sits down. )
Narrator Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Father God, forgive us for the times that we disappoint You, the times that we fail You. Help us to acknowledge our faults and failings before You, knowing that You forgive those who come to You with contrite hearts. Forgive us as we turn to You in repentance. Forgive us, Father God. Amen

Prayerfully we sing :

All Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise,
In deeper reverence praise.
Narrator Please stand for the hymn :

I have decided to follow Jesus

1.   I have decided to follow Jesus,
  I have decided to follow Jesus !
  I have decided to follow Jesus -
  No turning back, no turning back.

2.   The world behind me, the cross before me,
  The world behind me, the cross before me !
  The world behind me, the cross before me -
  No turning back, no turning back.

3.   Though none gone with me still I will follow,
  Though none gone with me still I will follow !
  Though none gone with me still I will follow -
  No turning back, no turning back.

4.   Where Jesus leads me, I'll surely follow,
  Where Jesus leads me, I'll surely follow !
  Where Jesus leads me, I'll surely follow -
  No turning back, no turning back.

5.   Sing glory, glory, and hallelujah,
  Sing glory, glory, and hallelujah !
  Sing glory, glory, and hallelujah -
  No turning back, no turning back.

( During the last verse of this hymn Servant sits in the front pew at the organ side. )

The homecoming : forgiveness

Narrator Please sit.
( Younger son comes down the aisle )
Narrator The son was still a long way from home when his father saw him.
( Father looks, sees his son, and runs towards him )
 The father's heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son and kissed him.
( Younger son and father get to front )
Younger son I have sinned against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son.
Father ( waving away what the younger son is saying, speaks to imaginary servants ) Hurry, bring the best robe and put it on him; Put a ring on his finger,
Shoes on his feet,
Go and get the prized calf !
Kill it and let us celebrate with a feast -
For this son of mine was dead but now he is alive !
He was lost and now he has been found !
( Father and younger son go off down aisle happily. )
Narrator And so the feasting began.

( Servant comes to altar rail from seat in front pew, father comes down hospital side aisle. )

Narrator In the meantime the older son was out in the paddock. On his way back home ...
( Elder son comes to middle in front of altar ),
 ... when he came close to the house he heard music and dancing. He called to one of the servants :
Elder son What's going on ?
Servant ( moving closer to elder son ) Your brother's come back home !
Your father's killed the prized calf because he came back safe and sound.
( Servant returns to his seat, elder son moves about angrily. )
Narrator The older son was angry and would not go into the house so his father came out to him.
Father ( moving up to elder son ) Please come in, here is your brother home again
Elder son Look. All these years I have worked with you. I have never disobeyed your orders What have you given me ? Not even a goat for me to have a feast for my friends.

But this son of yours wasted all your property on loose living and when he comes back home you kill the prize calf for him.

Father My son, you are always here with me and everything I have is yours.

But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.

( Father goes to back down centre aisle to join the party, looking back at elder son pleadingly, elder son goes sadly back to his chair. )

God's way.

( Critic-1 and Critic-2 stand up. )
Critic-1 So he went home after all.
Critic-2 Yes, he was very courageous to do that.
Critic-1 And his father welcomed him. He didn't deserve such a welcome.
Critic-2 No, he didn't. But our Father's love is so great that He is able to forgive all who ask Him.
Critic-1 I'm not sure I could forgive like that.
Critic-2 It's hard to do - but love enables us to do amazing things.
Critic-1 I would have been like the elder son. I wouldn't want anything to do with such a brother either.
Critic-2 Yes, I've struggled with emotions like that too. But God's desire is that all should be saved - and He accepts people into His family whenever they turn to Him in repentance, whether it is early in life or later on - and those in His family are asked to rejoice whenever a new person joins God's family, for it truly is a time for rejoicing.
Narrator Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Father God, thank You that You long for us to join Your family. Thank You for Your love that reaches out to us wherever we may be. Help us to respond to such love; forgive us when we are indifferent to You. Amen.

Prayerfully we sing :

All Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise,
In deeper reverence praise.
Narrator Prayerfully we sing our next hymn :

Such love

Omitted for copyright reasons; further details.
Narrator The organist will play this hymn again; you are invited to use this time to respond to the love that God has for us.

Thank You, Lord God, for Your wonderful blessings.

We pray for all those who are still far away from You, asking that Your amazing love and grace would reach into their lives and draw them unto You.

Amen. Please join in singing together the Lord's Prayer :


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done,
in earth, as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil,
for the Kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and for ever.

Giving thanks

Narrator Let us stand to sing our final hymn :

Amazing Grace

1.   Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
  That saved a wretch like me !
  I once was lost, but now am found,
  Was blind, but now I see.

2.   'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
  And grace my fears relieved.
  How precious did that grace appear
  The hour I first believed.

3.   Through many dangers toils, and snares
  I have already come;
  'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
  and grace will lead me home.

4.   When we've been there ten thousand years,
  Bright shining as the sun,
  We've no less days to sing God's praise
  Than when we first begun.

Narrator May the Lord bless us and keep us in His love. May His grace shine forth from us and bring light, love and peace to us, our families and all we meet.


Those taking part :

Critic 1
Critic 2
Elder Son
Leaper's friend
Younger son

We invite you to join us for a cuppa in the Hall ( behind the church ) at the end of this service.