Sunday, March 16, 2008

A New Church Home--Week of Prayer

My intention with church was to not make a definite decision about where I was going to call “home” until the summer. I figured that, even if I stayed at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, I would spend the first several months simply observing. The week of prayer changed that.

It began with 24 hours of non-stop prayer, beginning Saturday evening, in the Comfy Couch Room transformed into a prayer boudoir. I use that term to describe it because of the bolts of various kinds of chiffon in different shades of red draped from the ceiling to create a mood of intimacy and closeness. Around the room were various stations, most faced with an overstuffed, leather-covered couch on which to relax while praying. Much prayer, thought and creativity had been used to create a place one was reluctant to leave and that at least one person wished could remain beyond the time for which it was created.

The first station made me think of the Cloud of Unknowning and I probably spent the most time here. A quilt hung from the wall depicting a seashore with large breakers rolling in. Above were little lights, reminiscent of stars, shining through chiffon. Below was a shallow lamp filled with water that rose in visible vapour creating what I thought of as small clouds.

Something the pastor said the next day in his sermon led me to return to this station on a subsequent evening and look at the passages in the Bible where “cloud” or “clouds” are mentioned. I found it interesting that in most places the cloud(s) were associated with the presence of God—which is exactly what I sensed at this station designated for soaking in God’s presence.

Another station, focused on family wholeness, was dominated by a tipi big enough for one person to crawl inside. This is fitting given the large aboriginal population in the church. The floor of the tipi was covered with thin animal hides, furry pelts hung from the frame and various items of aboriginal and family significance were positioned around the perimeter.

There was a station for confession—a large bowl of sand in which to write one’s confession and then erase with a swipe of the hand, a large cross on which we could pin bits of paper with things we were confessing and a large bowl into which we could relinquish smooth stones which represented the burdens we were carrying. Another station connected us with Christians of more ancient times and some of the prayers they prayed. One station focused on prayer for the nations and was overflowing with items from a number of countries in the 10-40 window. A table was spread with magazines, paper, scissors, glue and more for those who have a more hands-on approach to prayer and finally, there was a station at which one could take communion.

Across the hall was another room for prayer prepared by the youth group. In one bricked corner a group of artificial trees gathered like a garden, covered by a canvas canopy and smooth pea-gravel beneath. In another corner was a place of lamentation walled in by canvas curtains. Inside was the look of abandonment—a place where unwanted debris was tossed. In the centre was an anvil and hammer. The visitor to this corner was invited to wail out in their despair or strike the hammer against the anvil in their anger. The kids did an awesome job of creating this corner.

But it was the prayer meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights that was the seal for me. I’m guessing the church population on a Sunday morning is about 200 – 300. The prayer meetings were attended by 17 – 25, with a good cross-section of ages and ethnicity. What amazed me was the connection these people have with God. These prayer meetings weren’t dull, boring, monotonous prayers of individuals as they took their turn around the circle. No!

The foundation was worship with music. We began to sing and as something came to mind to someone, a prayer, a scripture passage, a picture God was showing them, that person would begin to speak out. Sometimes we would immediately return to singing but other times what was spoke would trigger something in someone else who would have something to add—perhaps another picture related, or scripture, or a dream they’d had recently that spoke to what was said. It was a time of dynamic interaction, the group as a whole interacting with each other and with God in communal conversation with our Creator. No one was too young, too unimportant, too insignificant to participate, although I kept quiet and simply observed. Sometimes we were invited to pair off and pray for each other. One night we divided into male/female groups and the women spent an hour or more praying over the needs of one woman in our midst. A couple of times someone sitting beside me turned and asked if she could pray for me—total strangers but what a blessing!

Tuesday evening I sat, looking at those around me gathered for prayer and all I could do was thank God for bringing me to such people who love to pray and have evident experience in doing this often. Although earlier that day I could barely force myself to do things I love to do (depression is a terrible weight to be under), I was so lightened and buoyed by simply being present with these praying people that when I got home, had it not been so late, I could have started some major housecleaning. Amazing! The next night (which is when different people offered to pray for me—not on previous nights) someone told me as she was leaving that I was glowing. I certainly was inside!

And so I embrace this church. There is much I can learn from them and I have a sense of richness by being in their midst.

Thank you, Father, for your people who pray—who not only love to speak to you but who also know how to listen for what you have to say in return. Thank you for their love for you and their love for those around them. Bless them—communally and individually!

No comments: