“I would like to have a prayer service for my son at my house'” she said. Would you be willing to do that?”
I pondered for a few moments, not sure what to say. I have prayed in people’s houses. I have celebrated Communion in people’s houses.
I have visited many people who were shut-in over the years, although probably not as frequently as I should have done. I have visited people where they live at times of death and situations of stress or moments of joy. I have visited to nurture and build relationships.
On all those visits, or at least all that I can remember, I have prayed. With the people I visited, I have prayed. For the people I visited, I have prayed. Sometimes the person I visited prayed for me. Other church members and friends went with me at times. Often I went alone.
“You see six months ago my son received a diagnosis of cancer,” she continued. “He has had treatment and recovered, and I want to give thanks to God. I want a prayer service. Would you be willing to do that?”
The use of the word “service” wondered me. It is one thing to go and pray with someone. But services of worship, are public in my Reformed understanding. The Session approves celebrating Communion at times and places other than the usual worship time and place; representatives of the congregation usually accompany the celebrant. A private service?
After some quick thought and prayer – she sought an answer now – I decided this would really be the same praying with someone in the place where they live. I would view this as a time of prayer. If she preferred to call it a service, well I could live with that.
“I will,” I replied.
The planning began. We talked a time or two, and we exchanged email. The service morphed and developed. In the end, it became a service of thanksgiving. It would be a time to give thanks for both her sons and to give thanks for the house in which they lived – their home.
She emailed directions. And at the appropriate time late yesterday afternoon, I set out.
As the A-train rattled toward the destination, I wondered what the evening would bring. Would there just be the four of us? If I said a prayer or two would she consider that a service? If she did not, did it matter?
I came off and descended the steps to the sidewalk. There I discovered that my email server had gone down so the email with the directions could not be retrieved. Fortunately, I had the wisdom (or maybe just needed some busy work during the trip) to enter the address in my Google Maps application while on the train. I turned to that and began the short walk to her house.
Upon arriving, and before entering, I noticed three things. A pile of shoes stood at the top of the stairs – far more shoes than three people would need. Through the window, I could see the shadows of many people. A buzz of conversation, punctuated occasionally by laughter, came through the door.
Her son answered my knock and escorted me in to the living room. People filled the room. Family members. People from church. Any thought of a private service disappeared. This would be a communal time.
As I sat down, two of the men from the church left. The introductions had not ended when they returned with hymnals.
Quickly I reorganized my prayers and shaped a service. I invited the family to pick some hymns. When they had done so, we started.
I gave a call to worship. We sang. We prayed. We gave thanks for life’s blessings and God’s goodness. We gave thanks for her sons. We gave thanks for her house – her home. We remembered and prayed for God’s healing, comfort, and strength for all in need. We passed the peace, reminding one another of God’s love.
The closing hymn for the service – and it truly was a service – was “Let Us Break Bread Together.” And after a benediction, we did.
Outside, behind the house, family, friends, sisters and brothers in Christ enjoyed a meal of Guyanese and Trinidadian foods, supplemented with fried chicken and red velvet cake. Joy moved from table to table. Grace abounded. Thanksgiving bubbled over.
“Would you be willing to do that?” And I am blessed because I said I would.
See you along the Trail.