Behind the scenes at evening prayers
When Common Prayer:A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals came out in 2010, our community adopted it. We had previously used a mishmash of self written prayer liturgies with attempts at The Divine Hours mixed in. We haven't been super disciplined in our common prayer practice. There were seasons when we wouldn't meet at all and other seasons when we'd meet with young children who'd dance around the room and clap hands as we sang "Walk in the Light" in the evening.
Common Prayer provides morning, midday, and evening prayer liturgy. The morning has a similar pattern each day, but changes daily throughout one liturgical calendar year. Evening prayers have a similar pattern each night, each evening liturgy repeats weekly. The midday prayers are the same every day and they are my favorite.
We've had a better track record of adhering to midday prayer gatherings in the summer. Summer interns finish preparing lunch, youth arrive for daily summer activities, and we start with midday prayers. The midday prayer liturgy includes several of the basics: The Gloria Patri, The Doxology, a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi, a prayer of St. Ignatius, the Beatitudes, the fruit of the spirit, and passing of the peace. Because we've said them so often, many of us have them memorized. The words of the prayer have become a part of our flesh, they are inside of us.
In recent years, community life has shifted a bit. Residential community members come from various faith traditions and are not always comfortable with the faith roots of the prayer liturgy, the discipline of blocking out time to stop and pray, and the mundane reality of repeating the same words over and over. Rather than hold others accountable to common prayer, our family decided to adopt the morning prayer liturgy during breakfast time before school. Practicing this way provided us an opportunity to pray and read scripture with our children.
Once school was shifted to school-at-home, in order to flatten the curve of the effects of the novel coronavirus on hospitals, our morning prayer routine fell apart. As things began to unfold around us and stay at home order was put in place, we sensed it was time to engage in the discipline of common prayer again and we wanted to invite others to join us.
We'd used zoom before for work, but not for a common prayer practice, so we practiced a bit and coordinated to use Common Good Collective's Zoom account, which has a few more features than our free one. We'd imagined one of the features, breakout groups, would come in handy during prayer time. For the first week, we used the liturgy straight from commonprayer.net.
After a week of becoming familiar with it again,
I remembered all the things I loved about the evening prayer liturgy. I love "O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me." I swoon at:
" O gracious light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the evening light, we sing your praises, O God: Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O son of God, O Giver of life, your glory fills the whole world."
Becoming reacquainted, by candle light and song, with the evening prayers was like being reacquainted with a long time friend.
Even with the romance of it all, I also sensed that there were a few things missing from the liturgy: voices from the neighborhood, voices of POC, spirituals, a variety of song. So, I started to adapt the prayer liturgy to include prayers from neighbors, Howard Thurman, inspiration I come across throughout my week, words from QCFT staff. I remembered being inspired by the discipline and prayer ritual at Richmond Hill, so I incorporated an adaptation of their prayer prompts into our liturgy. I noticed that our longtime practice of naming prayer requests and then praying the Lord's Prayer didn't quite feel like enough. It didn't feel intimate or connected enough. We have started incorporating different methods of prayer: each person praying aloud, one person praying aloud, breath practice, etc.
Sometimes the prayer time feels incomplete. We'll end the zoom call and I'll feel like maybe we needed to incorporate something else, maybe there's a way to make this feel more spiritual, more intimate, more close. Maybe there's something we can add to make it feel less stiff or stale. Maybe there's something we can add to ensure that folks feel cared for and seen. Maybe there's something we can do to help participants know each other better. Daily, I'll think of something and try to add it to the liturgy. Maybe this'll be the salve that everyone needs.
I don't know who we imagined would join us. I guess our dream-brains thought all the radicals of the faith would swoop down and join our small community's zoom call. Nope. Instead, another kind of radicals have joined us- the radishes. A long time back, we were trying to come up with a name for what might otherwise be known as coworkers, staff, residential co-laborers. It took us awhile, but eventually we landed on the term "radishes." A radish is a root vegetable. "Radish" and "Radical" come from the same root word (pun intended). QC Family Tree Radishes are folks who, on-site or not, are committed to the work of cultivating community for the common good. They are QC Family Tree kinfolk rooted in discipleship and abundant living. Some of the radishes are folks who lived and worked here and are now scattered across the country. Others are long time supporters and friends.
We didn't know to expect that the radishes would be the ones to call in, who would commit to calling in often and regularly, who would end up being our prayer companions during these difficult times. Our numbers have been few and sometimes it is just our family. But, to remember and be remembered by the radishes has been a gift. I am grateful for prayer companions like: Rodney, Dawn, Erica, Jemima, Gale, Jackie, Tiffany, Hannah, Anne, JB, Laura, and Lesley-Ann.