Saturday, December 10, 2005
The Advent Prayer trail was open from 4.00 till 6.00 every evening last week, and because of the large number of tea lights, fairy lights and lights of all kinds, it seemed a good plan to be there curating a bit more than I had done with "Into the Wilderness". For the first hour each evening, the church was empty and silent (apart, that is, from the rather scrummy Dunstable Motets I'd chosen to accompany the trail) and I'd wonder what on earth had possessed me to commit myself to just sitting there, taking up 10 hours in a busy week.
But then, each evening, someone appeared.
On Monday and Tuesday it was the people I'd expected. Those whom I knew would enjoy this sort of unhurried, interactive worship. Friends and like-minded members of the congregation. They simply needed a quick reminder to follow the footprints, and were off on their way.
Thursday,though, was very different. First came a Little Fishes mum and her toddler, who stood engrossed making heart after heart at the plasteceine station, while his mum continued the trail peacefully. It felt as if we'd managed to give her a small oasis where she might not have expected one...Then came someone who is very much part of Ch K life, but not a member of the church. He'd seen that something was going on, and put his head round the door to find out more....not, he stressed, to do the trail, because that would be hypocritical of him.
He didn't "do" God.
Maybe not, but there was so much of God in the extended conversation that we had about what gives value to our lives, our hopes and longings for ourselves, for the world, for those we love.
He told me about the pleasure he derived from the acts of practical service he carries out in our community...and I felt he was showing me holy ground.
He was followed by a lady who has recently joined the congregation, and appeared at our Daily Prayer in Advent several times.She came, she said, because she had no idea what a prayer trail might be, and was rather disconcerted to find that there was no set verbal formula for her to pray aloud. However, she gamely set off, and returned to walk the trail once more the following day.
When the time came for Evening Prayer last night, people emerged from all corners of the church, and I was privileged to hear some of their stories as we sat in the chapel, beneath the bare tree that has confounded the season by bursting into prayerful leaf and life.