Normally, I pray – if at all – alone. But today, I joined OJ on a pilgrimage to morning services that were held a half hour’s drive away. As we’d arrived late, we quietly made our way to seats near the back of the sanctuary; with the deliberate intention also to stand slightly apart from the others, so I could bend and pace without causing distraction.
Sunlight was streaming in from the double-floor height windows. Outside, bare trees swayed in the wind, almost in rhythm to the chanting within. The raised platform was minimalist in decor, echoing the building’s simple and environmentally-sound design. Children were casually dressed, mostly in jeans and sweatshirts, while the adults were robed in a rainbow of colors – perhaps (I imagined) to fend off the blues and grays of winter.
All at once, the congregation broke out into a vaguely recognizable tune, but to a markedly different, funky, gospel-like rhythm, causing people to clap along and tap their feet. A woman near the front began drumming to the beat, and OJ whispered that a guitarist would likely join in shortly, as he had in the past (but a no-show today).
Discussion centered around the suffering and desperation in post-earthquake Haiti, with relevant biblical phrases intoned. Announcements were made about an upcoming benefit for Haiti, about purchasing fair-trade coffee – all reflecting the social-justice and environmentally-conscious leanings of members.
Then, a call from the pulpit to those who wanted to join in a prayer for healing. OJ approached while I stayed behind. There are times that I find solace and strength in community. But mostly, I find the act of praying to be a profoundly private and introspective endeavour; one that compels me to call on my inner resources, empathy and energy for guidance. It is also a profoundly creative act that, I believe, is not limited to the expressions of an organized group within a four-walled enclosure.
So, today, despite being surrounded by a community of faith, I nevertheless chose to pray solo, in silence – not just for my own recovery, but for all those in need, wherever in the world they may be. That too is healing enough, isn’t it?