Would ordinary people in an ordinary parish want to say Morning and Evening Prayer every day? Would there be enough of them to serve as officiants, so that one or two people didn't end up having to do it all? Would they understand that the Daily Office is sweetly potent even if nobody else is in the church while you're doing it, that it is never really true that nobody is there with you, because the saints and angels are always there with us when we pray? Would they come to feel that it was perfectly sensible to say The Lord be with you to a seemingly empty church, and would they come to hear the whispered presence of those who have gone before us answer back And also with you?
Is this something we could do? Could we give the people driving by to and from work the gift of seeing the lights on in the little church by the side of the road and, perhaps, know that someone was inside praying, for them and for the whole world? Because that's what the Daily Office is: prayer not just for those who are there, but also for those who aren't.
I emailed a few people whom I thought could do this. A couple others heard about it and came forward. We had two training sessions, and people came. And now we are fully scheduled, with officiants for morning and evening prayer every weekday. Whether or not anyone else is there, they will be, each for his or her appointed day and time. And my experience tells me that people will come -- not enormous crowds of people, but some. People who wish to begin or end a day with a quiet time of scripture and prayer and connection with an ancient tradition we still need.
We will begin this life of regular prayer next week, with the first week of Advent. We will husband our store of quietness, care for it lovingly, knowing that much conspires against it outside the walls of the little church. Advent will be a time of such husbanding for many people, a time when attention is paid to what the spirit needs to greet the little Prince of Peace, soon to come among us once again. This doesn't just happen to us. We have to show up for it. If we want peace, we have to go where it can be found.
Where is that for you? In prayer with others? In prayer by yourself? Prayer with others provides an accountability many of us need, as well as the supportive presence of loving souls many of us want. Many have remarked upon the odd fact that even silent prayer is somehow more profound when it is done in a group -- why it should matter that others are present if no one is saying anything, I don't know, but it does.
Now is a good time to consider this, as the old year breathes its last and a fresh new one begins. How will you go to the place where peace is to be found? How will you counter the fretful busyness of the world? Probably not just by doing what you always do. But here the news is good: it is never too late to do things differently.
You can pray the Daily Office with others without ever leaving your desk, if it comes to that: visit www.missionstclare.com, a wonderful site which lays it all out for you in a format that is very easy to follow. You can pray right from the screen. It's only weird for the first few minutes....