Wednesday, March 11, 2009

let my prayer rise up like incense

One of my favorite worship settings is Holden Evening Prayer. It was written for the Holden Village winter community in 1986 or 87... I can't remember which. In fact, at Holden Village where it is still done on a weekly basis, it's simply called Vespers '86 (or 87, depending on which year it is. I'm almost positive it's 86).

My first exposure to this service was my freshman year at college. We had our weekly Wednesday night vespers service and we always worshiped using Holden Evening Prayer. It's an amazing setting, the music just flows and the lyrics are well written. I like the melody and the whole service just has a nice, relaxed flow to it. I almost always feel like I've worshiped well after participating in this service.

Since college, I've had the opportunity to do Holden Evening Prayer at other places, such as retreats and conferences, and even at Holden Village itself. It continues to be a meaningful worship experience for me.

So, on a whim, I suggested to my Senior Pastor that perhaps we could do it for Lent this year. Now, I understand with the texts and the lyrics in this service that it's more appropriate for Advent, as it talks about the Light of Christ and one of my favorite parts of it is a musical setting of the Anunciation and Magnificat (when the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus and then her response). So Lent is not the most appropriate season of the church year to do it, but as it's the only season that we meet for worship in the evenings, we can make it work.

And we have been making it work. Today was the second week that we did it (Ash Wednesday was a more traditional Ash Wednesday service), and I think it went well. It's a very new service to our congregation, but they have done well with it. I'm not sure how they feel about it, because I think I have been pretty vocal about how I'm in favor of it, so I don't know people would let me know if they didn't care for it. But the responses I have gotten, even on the sermon note responses from our Confirmation students, is that they like it. So, that's good.

It's been a nice change, to break away from the same format that we've had the past couple years and to expose our congregation to something different and encourage them to try it. There are so many fun and creative and diverse ways to engage in authentic and meaningful worship and I love helping our congregation explore and find ways to do that. Hopefully this is just the start of something...

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