Saturday, September 09, 2006

Prayer Vigil

My church is on the brink of closing.
It has been for years, I'm told.
Last winter, we lost heat, and we can't really spend another winter squeezed into a Sunday School room.
So, we pray.
And God provides, a little at a time, as our need is greatest.
Always enough.

Noon today will mark the end of a 24-hour prayer vigil at my church.
24 hours, 24 people, each praying for an hour apiece.
Not a bad feat for a congregation of only 40.
I signed up for three am, because I figured it would be the hardest slot to fill.

I forgot to bring my watch.
Of course, I knew that I didn't really need a watch; I just had to leave at four am when the next person showed up to relieve me.
But it was difficult not knowing if I had been kneeling for four or forty minutes.
And the dead silence of the massive sanctuary allowed the slightest noise to echo all around.
Like the ticking of that clock that I couldn't see.
(I'll confess, I went looking for it once, on a stretch break.
It had the wrong time.)

I prayed.
My mind wandered, and I prayed again.
I meditated for a while, but got lost in my thoughts, and went back to my prayer list.
I wondered how people do this for an hour every day, as I searched for more words to ask for the same things.
And I wished that I wasn't so afraid to break the silence, because it would be easier to concentrate out loud.

I sang a hymn.
Falteringly, quietly, unable to let my voice fill the room.
With no accompaniment to keep me on key.

I sat in silence.
I tried to quiet my mind, and be at peace.
Tried, but came nowhere close.
My mind is a busy, little place.
But I was out of words, and the only thing I had left to offer was my feeble attempt at silence.

Then the door opened, and the four o'clock relief arrived.
They had coffee and donuts, and were ready to start their day.
I went home to end mine.

4 comments:

Christy're said...

Is it mainly because you don't have enough members to support the building costs?

Anonymous said...

My experience (in Rhode Island, at least) has been that there are churches everywhere, and none of them can pay the bills because they split the number of followers to the level that most of them are in large buildings able to seat 200 and they fill a fifth of the seats. I'll avoid commentary on the role of the church, or anything like that, but the simple, pragmatist truth is that at least half the churches need to close their doors, and considate their parisheners into viable larger churches, rather than exist as hundreds of tiny ones.

-Justin

Jule Ann said...

Christy:
Basically, that's it in a nutshell. It was once a booming church, but years of stagnation, aging and not replenishing the population have taken their toll. 40 people just can't afford the operational expenses, which are as low as they could possibly be.

Justin:
I have noticed the same trend, but I envision a different solution. There are more people in this world than ever before, and yet fewer people in the churches. Rather than resigning ourselves to gradually fading away, we are praying for new members, new interest, new zeal for church community. (Although we do ask, in our prayers, for the wisdom to accept the loss of our building graciously if we truly can't use it effeciently.)

twilighttreader said...

Even I, who doesn't have much use for churches in general, finds it sad that little community churches are shutting down while McMegaChurches are getting even more outrageously huge.

Good luck.