Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sunday Snippets

Ever since my Princeton acquaintances removed to another PCA congregation, they've urged me to visit on Sunday morning. I may on Easter. But last night I attended a quarterly, Spring Praise and Prayer Service, primarily over concern for an acquaintance's son who's hospitalized from a burst appendix.

I arrived a few moments early and counted only two cars in the church parking lot. One had a Wilberforce School sticker on the rear window, so I knew that was the pastor's car. With my usual misgivings, I made my way to the main entrance. It's well-marked from multiple directions. There's only one door in anyway.

Large, clear windows face the main street. One can see directly into the sanctuary. I saw the pastor and the music director on his guitar. I went in and hung my winter coat on a hanger in the open closets in the foyer. The pastor came out of the sanctuary, firmly shook my hand and introduced himself. In introducing myself, I dropped the names of my acquaintances.

I entered the sanctuary and took a seat towards the front. The music director came over and politely apologized for not remembering if we've already met. He told me this is a quarterly service so I should not come next Sunday evening. I told him I get my information from the church's Facebook page so I won't make that mistake.

I flipped through the bulletin. The service was put together well, a mixture of hymns and Scripture. Behind me, I heard a man enter and discuss with the pastor whom I might be. "Is she a deacon?" Laughter. I forget how strange I appear attending such services without my spiritual authority, i.e., without my husband. I heard the pastor assign the man a Scripture to read from the program during the service.

An elder couple entered and I had to, again, explain that their inability to recognize me is due to the fact they've never met me before:
Me: First time here.

Them: Were you here this morning? Oh, you missed a great sermon, right, pastor?

I'll get the sermon from the website.

In total, fifteen worshippers turned out but that number would have been reduced by half if not for the participation of a large, extended Korean family. We got started with the hopeful understanding that others may yet arrive. No one did.

After working through the hymns and Scriptures, we spent some time at the end in what has been called "conversational prayer," the real meat and potatoes of the prayer meeting. Very specifically, in this denomination, it means sharing prayer requests with the small group such that people takes notes. Then the group turns to the Lord with the requests. A leader volunteers to "open and close" the prayer and each person takes a turn "lifting up" someone else's request in an intercessory way. No one is left to pray for their own personal intention.

As requests were made, the pastor felt necessary to explain each one to me because they were often just mentioned by name only. In such a small church, everyone knows the full story. So I learned that the music director had been accepted into a doctoral program at Princeton Seminary which was considered a blessing because it kept him close to the congregation he serves. And I learned that a youth pastor has been "called" from across the country. I had seen requests on Facebook for temporary housing accommodations for this family, so I had some previous familiarity.

Strikingly, they have the boldness to pray very specifically, almost telling God what to do. But, in that way, they can recognize when the prayers are answered, can't they?

When we were finished, I said my goodbyes and left. And that's another strange thing about leaving a Protestant church after a service because no one else is leaving. Ever. I guess because they come late, they feel they need to stay after.

Subsequent to this prayer meeting, I've prayed for the acquaintance's son at daily Mass. And recently I've taken God to task for the delay in healing because the family is really trusting and faithful. I told God it was time to deliver. Later that day, a story came across Catholic News Service that Francis said it's ok to pray from the heart to God. So I feel somewhat at peace about losing it.