Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Beauty, surprises and the generous liturgy of friendship and prayer ...

It had not been easy to find a date to go out for a drink together, and I was quite surprised that I was expected at the ecumenical centre reception for 17.00, I even got an sms reminder. Wow we must be having some serious fun ahead of us starting this early. In honour of a night on the town I even put on some mascara - with hindsight this was perhaps not a good idea!
I met with Maike and she took me not out to the bar but into the chapel - that place of course for the real gluttons and wine bibbers! In the side chapel were quite a number of my colleagues gathered very quietly and Maike explained that they simply wanted to say thank you by organising Holden Evening Prayer in such a way that all I had to do was to be there.
I was very moved - hence the problems with the recently applied mascara and the depserate search for a hankie in my bag (I've learnt from facebook they had even discussed this eventuality before my arriving - this of course is what friends are for).
A group of my friends had been preparing for a long time, rehearsing the piano and flute and solo parts since August, tonight was the first time they sang and played together. It was a very beautiful moment, and the liturgy should be beautiful but not perfect. I thought back to Stephen and Sara Padre, Itonde Kakoma, Luke Smetters, Colin Williams, Annie Osbourne, Michael Wallace and many others who have introduced and sung Holden with us since 2004. It is so good to know that the singing will go on, especially as more musicians know the parts. It reminded me of all of those times when I have come to the end of very busy days in the office and felt that perhaps the most important thing I had done was pray with others.
Tonight was truly "leitourgia" - the work and praise of the people, many were involved in reading the wonderful selection of Bible verses chosen by Ruthann, in the music, in the preparation. I know how much coordination that takes so I felt very blessed.
The liturgy is the space that frames our grief, joy, distress and doubt. This was the space where I could finally allow some tears to fall in public as I grieve at leaving a job I love, recognising my failures, seeing too some achievements and simply accepting that moving on is painful at this time. Tonight my tears were for the first time about leaving these wonderful people and this wonderful space, rather than tears about that which is broken in the present and the past. No more struggling is needed. Singing and praying to God held all of us in that moment together in love.
This was the second time this year I have received a sign of pure grace. It is quite hard to receive such creative, simple generosity. But I realised that grace has that capacity to transform and heal. The thirty minutes of tonight's service was a special gift to me, nourishing me with joy despite the tears.
Thank you all very, very much.
And so to Paris where I hope to occasionally say the Beatitudes with others at midday according to the tradition of les veilleurs.
But for now simply gratitude.