Pandemic Prayer Stations for Proper 28

A few weeks ago, in Zoom worship, someone popped on the screen while on a walk. She had been walking the whole service around her neighborhood while still being present for worship. It made me giggle but it also reminded me how much innovation has happened in worship since this pandemic began.

You are a part of that, dear pastor. You have innovated and made amazing things happen. You are still doing that and I give thanks for your faithfulness and creativity. You are a gift to me and to the people who are lucky to call you pastor.

Every so often, I like to offer some thing that allows for you to take a break from preaching. This is one of those weeks where I wanted to offer something a little more than a couple of prayers. This is not a complete service but it hopefully allows for you to create a space rather than a sermon. I also know that there are some weeks where it is easier to write a sermon that attend to all of the details that these special worship opportunities offer so feel free to use these prayer stations as they inspire and support your worship experience this Sunday.

Though prayer stations are most often done in a space of communal worship and not on Zoom, I wanted to avoid that assumption. It may well be that you are worshipping on Zoom and so there’s no need or elaborate set-up or long supply lists. Instead, I would invite the members of your faith community to go for a walk this week before Sunday morning. Go for a walk and collect stones. If you use these prayer stations while still preaching, have them look for something in these stones that relates to the things you are already thinking about in your sermon.

The last prayer station requires permanent markers in one or more colors. I am hoping that that is something that folks might have at home in their junk drawers. I have lots in mine anyway.

I had this Easter litany in my head when I started these meditations on stones. It’s for Easter and we are a few weeks away from Advent so it probably won’t work but I still love it. Then, I found this quote from the wonderful poet Joy Harjo and so I made a slide for that too. Why not?

Please download these slides and use them as they fit your worship experience on Sunday or in the days ahead. Could this also work for that Sunday in Advent when we wade into the Jordan River with John the Baptizer? Maybe if there was another couple of stations on water. Maybe with a few more edits so that it more closely ties to those gospel words.

It has come to my attention that it is near impossible to copy and paste from this site which is kinda a big problem because that’s the point of these pandemic prayers. I’m trying to trouble shoot that but I would love if you would comment and let me know if this is easier or harder. This week is a little different as I wanted to offer prayer stations and I gave images instead of copied text which may be super annoying or really nice to pull for your powerpoint presentation. Or this is what I hope anyway.

My newsletter went out last week with ideas for Advent. If you missed it, you can sign up here and there is a way to look in the archives. I’d shared that the collaboration I was looking forward to released with the talented Jo Owens of Vibrant Church Communications wasn’t going to happen — but some things changed and well, stay tuned. I can’t say for sure yet but there might be some good stuff coming your way soon. I’m also hard at work on a special service for the first few weeks in January with something I’m calling New Year Epiphanies.

You can find a brief summary in my kitchen as well as the other materials I’ve created for Advent and Christmas. I pray all of these things help your planning for the upcoming season that I know you are busy imagining with great love.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Pandemic Prayers for Proper 8B

I love the healing stories in the Gospel of Mark. There are two in this pericope and the first part is my very favorite. It seems all the more poignant this year when we are reaching for possibility and trying to be faithful to hope and love.

We are reaching with our hands outstretched for so much. For some of us, we are reaching out to hold the hands of beloved family and friends after nearly a year and a half apart. For others, it is the possibility of justice and the work we are committing to do for racial justice. For others, it is just to believe that this uncertainty is not all there will be. We are reaching into the unknown.

Call to Worship
Inspired by Psalm 30

Across and afar
Far and wide
we have searched 
for our God. 

From the pit of despair
and under the covers
when it has felt impossible 
to greet the new day
we have needed grace.

We have cried.
We have called out. 
We have not yet
found our way
out of the depths.

We come together
to watch for the morning
light to dawn and 
hope to revive our souls.

Most of my prayers — as in this call to worship above — have opted for a singular voice but this week and with this narrative to lead our hearts, I wanted a responsive prayer that I know some of you have kept on Zoom and others will be reintroducing as hybrid worship emerges.

Make Us Well, O God
Inspired by Mark 5:21-43

Here we are on the other side
of what has been so much suffering
and so much death. We have 
suffered. We have suffered 
for so long.

Make us well, O God.

We have crossed over
a chasm of impossibility
and some things have changed. 
Some things are different
but we are still reaching
into the unknown with hope.

Make us well, O God.

There are some things
that feel worse than they were before
but we have spent all we have.
We have used up every bit 
of energy on dreaming
and we are exhausted. 

Make us well, O God. 

We do not want 
this to be all that there 
is on the other side. No matter
how tired we might be, we have
faith that the world we imagine
could give us healing. 

Make us well, O God.

We extend our arms
to touch your grace
and transformation.
O God, heal us.

Make us well, O God.

Though this is not within my talents, I wonder about someone in your congregation who could teach a simple sung version of the above refrain that a cantor could sing alone on Zoom — and the congregation can join in singing from their living rooms and kitchens. A cantor may even work in in-person worship depending on the restrictions within your area but I love how a simple refrain like this can offer a responsive prayer throughout the week. Or maybe this is the song that needs to carry us all.

Your church may have resumed worship gathering together in-person. There may be people worshipping without masks or there may be arm bands to communicate individual comfort or perhaps buttons and bracelets like this Texas church. It might feel like you have reached the other side of this pandemic while my prayers continue to linger in this liminal space. I feel this awkwardness as I write these prayers and wonder if perhaps something should change in how I am composing these words so that they might be more helpful to you in your ministry. I welcome your comments or if you are looking for something more particular in your worship planning, please do contact me.

That’s all I’ve got for you, dear pastor. I am praying for you. I am praying for you so much.