I didn’t have a clue but I love anything to do with prayer and remembered the reports about it last year. I had to go.
The purpose seems to be to listen to hear what God has to say to the Church—local and national, Vineyard and others. It’s been an annual event for the Vineyard churches in the Canadian Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) for the past five years and has been held in a variety of places in each province. This year about a hundred people met at Bethel Lutheran Church in Sherwood Park, Alberta, a small city very close to Edmonton, coming from not only the prairie Vineyard churches but from British Columbia and New Brunswick as well.
The Church is the bride of Christ so, at the front of the room, was a (very chaste) bridal gown on a dress form with combat boots on the floor against the gown. Being the bride of Christ is about intimacy with God—not fuzzy feelings but about taking up our cross and following him; about interceding to him for others. Our God is a consuming fire and he is purifying his bride, exposing sins.
We spent two days from 9:30 a.m. till about 9:30 praying, with breaks for lunch and dinner. We were led in worship and prayer by a musical band. We started off singing songs that were directed to God:
You are the hope living in us
You are the rock in whom we trust
You are the light shining for all the world to see
Jesus you are mercy, Jesus you are justice
Jesus you are worthy that is what you are
you died alone to save me, your rose so you could raise me
you did this all to make me a chosen child of God
You’re the God of this city...
There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done
In this city
Then the band would focus on one sentence or phrase from the song that God seemed to be leading them to such as, from the Chris Tomlin song above, “There is no one like our God,” and sing it over and over, helping us to meditate on that one truth and let it sink into us deeply.
From there, the band would stop singing and play instruments only—allowing our thoughts and prayers to go where God led them—and/or improvise with words: singing Scripture or extemporaneously praising God and praying to him.
At the same time, the rest of us were doing a variety of things: singing, dancing with or without props, painting, kneeling, bowing down in one’s chair, writing what God was saying and showing and so on—all focussed on listening to God to hear what he had to say and praying back to him what he was putting on our hearts.
Much of the time I felt more like an observer than a participant. Let me share what I saw and heard during the first session.
I sat near the front where I could watch the dancers. A large pile of rectangular, chiffon scarves of varying sizes had been provided and some of the women were using these to express their prayers.
At one point, a group of them were sitting on the floor in a circle, moving the scarves back and forth in front of them. It made me think of the pool at Bethesda (John 5) and how people would wait for the waters to be stirred. It was at the stirring of the waters that people were healed. I thought, “God is stirring the waters among us this weekend.”
The women stood up with blue and yellow scarves, lifting one, very long, carpet-runner-sized blue “scarf” up and down like billows. More people joined them, including a man and they faced the rest of us in a row, lifting the scarf up and down. Another woman was dancing alone with no props. The group with the long blue scarf stilled their arms, letting the fabric hang down and began to encircle the lone dancer and then spiralled in, tighter and tighter, until they were gathered in a tight cluster. Someone else carrying a flag (chiffon fabric attached to a wooden dowel) walked around the cluster, waving the flag over them. More people picked up flags and joined the first flag-bearer.
None of this, or any of the dancing, was rehearsed or planned ahead. It was a group expression of what they were hearing and seeing from God.
As I watched, it occurred to me that the dance cluster represented unity amongst the churches, with the flags representing the angels celebrating the unity and blessing it. The flags and their bearers were the protection of God.
At this time we were singing:
Come, let us return unto the Lord...
He will come to us like rain, spring rain
If we ask, He will come
Send His rain on everyone
The cluster dropped the blue cloth and raised their hands as they unwound into a circle with hands joined and raised. Breaking their handholds, they raised their hands and moved them repetitively towards their faces as if they were trying to get more of the falling rain. The circle broke, leaving the one man dancing alone.