Because it gets me out of the house,
I go to the gym on Tuesdays, in the morning,
I joined the gym near the church,
I joke, unable to admit to myself that I am starting to need the church more than I need the gym. Then one Tuesday, James raises an eyebrow at me after morning prayer and comments
See you tomorrow
I have been holding back and I know this. Don’t want to hassle the clergy. Surely, that service is for them? I am trying, at this point, to keep a low profile at St Mary’s. This seems not to be working. I keep getting added to rotas. Weeks start to go by where, what with the gym, morning prayer, job hunting, Sunday worship, bellringing practice and sundry excuses, I end up in one church or another for seven days straight.
There are a handful of us in the congregation who attend Morning Prayer semi-regularly, like me. Some days, it is just me and one of the clergy. From this I infer that there are days when it is just one of them, praying, alone-together with God. Other days, five or six of us cluster. Strangers, visitors and friends, and lively discussions about what we read into the readings and psalms.
One day early last August, two of us laity sat, app in hand. I am yet to master the analogue version. The clock approaching the appointed time, we discuss how to proceed absent clergy. We might just have to crack on ourselves. But the curates tumble through the door just in time. My friend remarks that we were just discussing what we would have done had they not materialised. To which one curate says decisively
Erika, why don’t you lead it?
My inner monologue screams
I am not even confirmed yet.
Inwardly I pray frantically
Lord, be with me. Let me not cock this up.
I dole out the readings, draw us into silence, and began with the preparation:
O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
I seem to remember we were partway through the psalms, but it might have been during the readings (ah! I can relax a bit!) when it dawned on me that I would have to lead the intercessions for the day, on the fly. I offered more silent prayers.
Lord, let me not forget anyone. The world, and Your church, and this place and its people, and the sick, and the dead, and the nearly dead…
The overall experience left me a little teary. But when Freya and Josh explained to a visitor who arrived after we got started but whom they knew from theological training,
That was Erika’s first time leading.
he replied generously that he couldn’t tell.
This year begins. I give in.
I need to start swimming a little, I reason, on alternate days when I am not in the gym. I have a trip booked when I will have the opportunity to SCUBA dive and I am not at all swim-fit. And I can’t land a job, a whole other saga. It’ll do me good to get out of the house in the morning. Might as well pray more, the solution to most things.
Church was closed on Monday, New Year’s Day. I was there Tuesday as usual, then the gym. I wonder if James sensed what had shifted because after Morning Prayer Wednesday, before the swim, he mentioned that all the clergy would be off today, Thursday.
I can do it,
I found myself offering,
if someone can open the church up.
I’ve done it once before.
So here I am, praying alone-together with God. No-one else came. Just me, and Psalm 89, and Ruth (Chapter 3, cliffhanger), and Paul (Colossians 3:12-4:1). This time I did cry, during the intercessions, as I tried not to forget anyone, the world and His church and the sick and the dead and the nearly dead. I am overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world and the calling in front of me.
It’s fine. It’s just a lot to take in. That’s all.
I add hurriedly, furiously, as if I can imagine ever desiring anything else,
anyway, it might not be that.