- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I started my day today helping to lead a 12 hour prayer vigil that my church held today. Its announced purpose was to lay "a spiritual foundation" for our capital stewardship campaign which culminates tomorrow as we bring in our pledges for annual and capital fund. So one might have been cynical, perhaps, about whether this was "praying for money" or some kind of ploy. But what made it a profound experience was that the people who stepped forward to lead it are people in the congregation who are truly gifted in prayer, and take seriously the idea that we can bring all that we need to God. The design of the day was simple: People came to pray for an hour, sometime between 9-9, many signing up in advance, and there was a different leader for each hour. I had the 9AM shift so got to begin but the leaders of the team had already set everything up (including bringing some blankets and space heaters because the heat was off in the church, as it happened (the Heat and A/C system is the at the top of the the list for the capital campaign, so it was telling that the heat was off on this particular day!)
There were 5 of us: We began with a brief prayer, and then we each took a handful of prayer cards, filled out by members of the congregation over the past couple of weeks, and took them with us to places of our own choosing, around our very beautiful and nearly empty sanctuary. We prayed in silence, but the silence was rich and full, and held us together. Daylight, candlelight, and stained-glass light combined in the early morning, with the pale brick and sand-colored stone of our sanctuary to make it an experience bathed in light -- even the need to wrap shawls around ourselves against the cold reminded us that we were wrapped in the love of God, each of us praying from a different part of the church -- our own prayers of adoration and petition, as well as the prayers of our fellow parishioners. I was moved by many of the prayers on the cards -- most of them asking for guidance, deepened faithfulness, help with jobs and financial issues, healing. There is something powerful about being invited to bring another soul into prayer, and particularly in that familiar space where I'm used to worshipping -- the candles lit on the altar, the green altar linens of the current liturgical season, and a sense of love and connection between me and the others gathered at prayer - women I feel I know well, even though we know each other mainly from worshipping together on Sundays for many years, and from the meeting or two that we had together to prepare for this day.
In the silence I remembered something Evelyn Underhill wrote about intercessory prayer (in her wonderful little book of essays called "Life as Prayer" -- this is from the title essay: "One human spirit can, by its prayer and love, touch and change another human spirit; it can take a soul and lift it into the atmosphere of God. This happens, and the fact that it happens is one of the most wonderful things in the Christian life." I experienced this at the prayer vigil today, in that familiar place with these well beloved people, all of them, I believe, particularly gifted in intercessory prayer. I am glad to be reminded, and invited again, into this mysterious and very beautiful dimension of the Christian life. It was a holy time, this morning, for me, and I am grateful.