A Trial Run of Something New in Worship for Advent!

This past Sunday (November 27th) we tried out something new in worship.  Interactive Prayer Stations!  My friend from Seminary, Theresa Cho who is at St. John’s Presbyterian in San Francisco is a whiz at prayer stations, but this isn’t a new idea—I’ve engaged in these at worship conferences, and there are all sorts of great ideas out there.  Our Session retreat in November focused on some new ideas for worship and prayer stations were one idea we all really liked and we spent time looking at Theresa’s ideas for prayer stations and decided to spend the season of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas) in worship experimenting with this different way of praying.

I of course, was nervous about trying something new, wondering what the reactions would be.  I have learned through, over my two and a half year (so far!) time with Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church that this is a very adventurous and forgiving congregation—which gives so much freedom to try all sorts of new things!   That is a huge asset and a gift beyond all others!

This is how prayer stations work:  Instead of the usual prayers of the people (one person praying while others sit quietly in the pews), stations are created around the room/sanctuary that can be just about anything that invites and elicits prayer.  Because they are different they evoke new senses out of us in our response to the movement of the Spirit in our lives.  We see new things and we hear a new Word from God as we pray.

Our stations this past weekend focused on our scripture readings from Isaiah and Mark that were the cornerstone of our worship service.

These were the descriptions of our five prayer stations:

Today in place of the Prayers of the People we will share the practice of interactive prayer stations.   The idea is to get up and to interact in silence with others as you offer prayers to God in a variety of ways.  You may go to as many or as few stations of prayer as you want to.

There are five prayer stations throughout the Sanctuary…

Prayer Wall—This prayer station is located on the back wall of the Sanctuary.  Here you are invited to write short prayers to God, reflecting on prayer questions related to the Isaiah and Mark readings for this Sunday.

Prayer Ornaments—This prayer station is located on the side of the church near the front.  Here you will find small clear glass ball ornaments.  You are invited to write Advent “spiritual intentions” on strips of colored paper and then place them into your ornament to take home.  You can then place your ornament on your Christmas Tree at home as a way of remembering the spiritual commitments you have made today to God at the beginning of your Advent journey.

Prayer Ribbons—This prayer station is located at the front of the church in front of the Christmas Tree.  Here you are invited to write Advent prayers for the world.  Leave one prayer tied to the tree and take one prayer home with you.

Remembering Your Baptism—This prayer station is located at the front of the church at the Baptismal Font which is filled with water.  Come and dip your hands in the water and remember that as one who has been baptized into Christ you are loved by God.   As you dip your hands into the water ask God to help open your heart to the new places that God in Jesus Christ is calling you during this Advent Season.

The Silence of the Moment—Quiet music will be played throughout this time in worship. You can always return (or stay) in your pew to pray silently.

I noticed many things this Sunday in worship as people went to the prayer stations:

  • Children and youth in the church smiling and having fun
  • People pausing in prayer on the steps in front the baptismal font, some with their hands over their eyes, some with their hands raised in the air
  • Tears
  • Smiles as people passed each other and got near to each other as they moved through the prayer stations
  • Thoughtful pauses and some people stopped to contemplate the questions on the prayer wall

The space felt different, worship felt different.  I am only hearing good feedback, but seriously, if people have other feedback—I really do want to hear it so we can keep making this the best possible experience of worship for everyone!

And some samplings of the prayers that were written on the prayer wall this Sunday:

  • Find ways to do more with less and then have more to give
  • Remember the “real” Christmas!
  • Give my time and talent to those in need!
  • To dig deeper and share with those in need
  • Supporting our military always!
  • Be with us as we await your return
  • Thanks to our military, but God, let there be no need!
  • Remember to begin and end the day with “global” prayer
  • Agonizing over the writing of Christmas cards
  • Away from commercialism and toward the reality of God in Christ in our lives
  • To prevent violence against children
  • God thank you for our food  –from a child

There are a few photos in this posting, but if you want to see all the photos from the prayer stations click here

So what do you think about this?   How did you sense the Spirit moving on Sunday morning?

…And see you this Sunday for worship at 10AM in the Sanctuary, we’ll be doing more prayer stations, and yes, they will be different, we’ll be doing this all the way until we get to Christmas!



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