Since arriving at Grace last year, I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities and limitations presented by Grace’s location and physical space. The church itself is quite beautiful and its high-profile location are incredible pluses. But there are challenges as well–parking, for example, is one and the presence of the homeless shelter makes security an issue, too. Still, I have wanted to offer a robust schedule of weekday services, to reach out to our neighbors.
Several lay people have mentioned over the past few months that they would appreciate the opportunity to attend and to officiate at Evening Prayer, and after talking to a number of people, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try it during Advent.
After one week, I can say that it has been an interesting experiment. The numbers have not been been overwhelming, but I’ve not had to say it alone. What has surprised me is the effect on me of saying Evening Prayer in a lighted church as evening darkens. The season of Advent is all about light shining in the darkness. Turning the lights on at Grace after 5:00pm, and lighting candles in the nave to prepare for the service, are reminders of the coming of the light of Christ into the darkness of the world.
But more than that, there’s something about saying the familiar words of evening prayer, as the evening darkens, as people make there way home after a workday, and while the men are lining up to enter the shelter on the other side of the courtyard.
Tonight we read Psalm 22–that powerful, gut-wrenching Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross, and that we recite on Maundy Thursday during the stripping of the altar. To read that Psalm now, in the midst of our anticipation of the coming of Christ, is a jarring reminder of how this story ends. The hope and anticipation of Advent ends, it seems, in a body broken, shattered, dying on the cross.
Of course, that’s not the end. Still, to celebrate Advent in the light, not only that shines in the darkness, but in the light of crucifixion and resurrection, challenges everything we understand about the season.
There’s also something about praying while the world walks by. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about that another time.