When I was in college, there was an evening service in our chapel. It was at 10 pm on Wednesday nights. The first semester I was there, still trying to figure things out, our chaplain left. But before he did, he taught me how to set up the service and how to sing the chants. For the next three and a half years, in close connection with the college organist John Anthony, I led that weekly service.
It remains one of the most significant spiritual experiences of my life.
We were a small , extremely ecumenical group that met late on those Wednesday nights. There was me the Protestant, a handful of Catholics, a Greek Orthodox girl and an agnostic. Harkness Chapel was always airy and dark on those nights. I’d enter in the back door and light the candelabras. They made a pool of yellow light below the vaulted ceiling. We’d begin in silence with muffled greetings. Then song, chant, prayer, more silence, song and chant again. We’d end holding hands and singing, before scattering back to our homework and brightly lit dorm rooms.
In the four years I was at college, I believe I missed fewer than five of these Wednesday night services.
During that brief period of velvet night, I felt peace, fellowship, contentment. I made room for silence. I listened. I slowed down. There was room for the Spirit to move in me and to speak to me. There was space for me to slide back inside my own skin, and remember who I am. There was a tremendous connection with those few other pilgrims, coming to find the same thing.
I suspect many of us want to get back what we had in college. There were our collegiate figures, our somehow ample time for fun, the energy of youth, the proximity of all our friends… heck, just getting to sleep in and have someone else do all the cooking. But the thing I’d like to get back from college is that service — that peace.
Happily, unlike my youth, this may be something attainable. I can aspire to this connection to the Almighty. As my living is concentrated down to the most necessary, I find I need to stop taking away and start adding. This is something I will add.
So. Next Wednesday night at 9 pm (a nod to my now-elderly status), I will open the doors of Burlington Presbyterian Church and light candles. I will sing “The Spirit within us moves us to pray”. I will make room for silence. And if you would like to come, I will smile and worship with you.
Prayer at the Close of Day
9 – 9:30 pm
Burlington Presbyterian Church
May the spirit of the Lord remain with us throughout the night.