“Pray, in all simplicity.” St. John Climacus
We pray at Liturgy. We pray a lot. I don’t know why this struck me so solidly this morning as I sat on my porch drinking coffee. It may be a reaction to the conversation I had with my mother in law yesterday. She asked to bring the boys to their church camp and I reacted with a quick, “no, I don’t think so.” It was a knee jerk response and I surprised myself with the response. My mother in law was taken aback and so I tried to explain…and found I could not.
It isn’t I have negative feelings toward her church and yet, my response feels protective. I told her that I felt it was important that the boys get more involved at our church this summer, that I wanted them to learn the practice, make friends there. She nodded and said, “Well, this isn’t church though, it’s Vacation Bible School. They do crafts and things.”
Still, I was hesitant and she persisted, “your church isn’t all that different from ours, anyway…is it? It shouldn’t be.”
I suppose we have the same basic things in common; same bible more or less, same Jesus, same Trinity and yet, it’s different. Very different, at least it feels that way to me.
So as I compose in my head our next conversation all that comes to me is that at Liturgy we pray. We pray a lot. We pray and we remember and we participate in the Mystery of faith, the Mystery of the Eucharist. There is no worship team, no power point, no topic driven sermon. There are prayers of the faithful and prayers of the catechumen and prayers of supplication; Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
It’s a dance with rhythm unmistakable to me now. It’s taken a solid 9 months of regular-ish attendance for me to be able to keep time with that rhythm and I have been paying close attention to it. During the Liturgy now I can lean over to whichever child is standing next to me and I can say things like “this is the shift, here, from the Word to the Eucharist…” and sometimes they roll their eyes and sometimes they nod gently but it’s because we’re practicing it week after week. This is important to me. I want their experience of “church” at this formative time in their life to be about prayer and I want them to find their rooting in this narrative, in this practice, in this community. It still does not explain my hesitation to their attending Vacation Bible School at their grandmother’s Nazarene church in the suburbs but it’s the best I can do at the moment I suppose.
One day I hope I’ll find the “and” in these things rather than the “either/or.” It’s not today. I have no idea what kind of conversation I’ll have with her next but I know I want to err on the side of kindness and love, not defensiveness or suspicion.
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.