Writing acts of worship is hard. I used to do it at least weekly. Now I don’t: I work full time as a chaplain and when I come home I feel fulfilled but also mentally drained- there is not a lot left in the tank.
Weekends (they go on for two days: even with over 5 years working as a chaplain, I still find it a novelty) are down time, house cleaning, shopping, catching our breath: there is not a lot of headspace for the soul searching and contemplation for worship preparation.
I thought I was on a winner at February half term: space and time to begin the contemplation and stillness for Easter. I nearly finished my service for Easter day and was on the verge of emailing it before I thought that it would look a mite sad to do so.
And then the virus hit and the world stopped and every way I knew of being hit ‘pause.’ I thrive on human contact in what I do for a living and I had to work from home; for a long time I was disorientated- I guess I still am. The Easter service I’d written still exists and will maybe get reworked some day: I can’t use it at work; it wouldn’t connect.
I thought my Easter was done- quietly worship at home; read the stories, let them sink in and see what came to the surface. I thought it was done and then- and I can’t remember exactly how it happened: I’d promised two people that I’d phone them on Easter Sunday and that evolved into an act of worship- I found myself leading an act of worship in a ward 40 miles away whilst I sat in our front room.
The tech took ages to work, the ward staff were wonderful- beaming me into a ward flatscreen, the internet sometimes slowed and occasionally I disappeared from view. But… it worked.
Not choreographed, not precise or tidy, but it worked. I first noticed when my halting words elicited a response: people began to respond in a way that reflected their different traditions, when the prayers came, people began to offer their own, so I gave up my script and joined in.
It was perhaps the most meaningful act of worship I’ve ever been part of: and I say ‘part of’ for I stopped being a leader and became part of something. Facilitated by atheists/agnostics because they cared, shared in by people who came to take part and not spectate, untidy- messy even, but ‘real’. Often mental health wards feel more ‘connected’ than the outside world: there is generally less artifice and more honesty: those who are broken and know it struggle less with being real.
Sometimes it is good to lose yourself in wonder and it often happens when you don’t expect it.