Saturday, March 6, 2010

When children pray...

Yesterday my husband and I went to a fundraising luncheon in Seattle for the SAMA Foundation; its founders, Dr. Robert Day and Cynthia “CJ” Taylor, happen to be neighbors of ours.

After years of struggle to find effective treatment for their drug addicted teenage daughter, Dr. Day, who is President and Director Emeritus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and CJ, who is the Founding Executive Director of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Puget Sound Affiliate, started SAMA to fund research, provide resources, and develop treatment options for families coping with adolescent substance addiction. We do our best to support their worthy endeavors, and appreciate the opportunity each year to hear more about the progress being made on this front.

Though it was only a two hour luncheon, travel back and forth to the city ate up most of the day (we missed the 2:05 ferry coming back by ONE MINUTE), so I didn't get around to opening the day's emails until after 4. Mixed in with the usual collection of spam I was delighted to find the following piece in my mailbox. Bill Harper, the vicar of Grace Church (where you'll find me most Sunday mornings around 8 am), sends out his Notes from the Vicar every week or so, and this one was just so wonderful that I immediately asked his permission to post it here -- which he kindly gave. Bill, by the way, is the curator of the upcoming ECVA exhibition, which is entitled "In Fellowship and Communion."

"Sometimes in this job the most amazing things happen. Like on Tuesday.

We had invited young kids--children--to come to Grace after school to talk about prayer. It certainly seemed like a perfectly sensible idea. After all, "teaching" about prayer is something church folk do. Or expect their church to do. And me . . . well, I'm just mostly glad to have time with Grace kids.
So the snacks were set out, the table was set--and ... kids trickled in. And then some more. We set up another table... And then another. Yes, even another. Soon there were 31 kids eating grapes and cheese and drinking juice. The youngest? Three. The oldest? Eleven. It was quite a group and quite a mix, and I was beginning to panic just a bit about how to manage the bunch once we moved in to the sanctuary.

But in we went, and then we sat in a circle, around a circle of candles, one for each child. I had no intention of trying to "explain" prayer (can anyone, really?); I just wanted a chance for them to experience it. So we sat with our legs crossed and hands relaxed. First we imagined all our thoughts and feelings floating outside and around our bodies, and God scooping them up. Then we listened to our breathing. In deeply, out quietly. Then we said that one great, ancient word: we "Ohmed" together, feeling lips and nose vibrate, and then letting that vibration travel down our bodies to heart and stomach. Then we stood up, held hands and sang "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place."

Yep. We did all that. And then the amazing thing happened (not that I wasn't already completely amazed that they were still sitting there, together, with me and God). Slowly, directly, I moved around the circle, and as I lit the candle in front of each child I asked, quietly, "what would you like me to pray for--for you?" And one at a time I had my answers: "My friend who has cancer." "My two dogs." "My sister." "Pray for my grandma's spirit because she died yesterday." And I did pray, directly, with each child. Then moved to the next, and said another. When I was done, with 31 prayers, I was just amazed. Who wouldn't be? And I found myself believing, completely, in prayer as I sat in that circle of light. It was "a good day at the office." An amazing day. And I get to do it again this Tuesday. "

I wish I'd done that with my children when they were little... sigh.

And now, because of the way I spent my day, I raise a prayer of my own, for all the children who have been lost to addiction, for all the families who tried so hard to save them, and for hope for all the kids and families who struggle still, that they may find a way to release the grip of this disease, and a way to peace.


karen gerstenberger said...

This is amazing. Bill sounds like a wonderful pastor. I love this idea - the best kind of "youth group" imaginable. Thank you for sharing it; it's going to inspire a lot of people. I may post a link to it, to spread the word a little farther.

Maureen said...

What a beautiful post! It filled me up with a deep sense of gratefulness for our children -- they who do understand and also find in prayer the moment to be as One.

Joining you in your prayer.

Karen said...

I teach Sunday School to 5-11 year olds. They also have no problem sitting in a circle praying and it's a treat for me to be there with them. You gave me some good ideas today. I like "doing" rather than "teaching".

altar ego said...

First, thank you for the blog award. I have to admit that I have secretly coveted one as I have watched other blogging friends receive one, and then another, and... So thank you. Coming from you--such a thoughtful, insightful, prayerful and genuine seeker (among all sorts of other good things), it means a great deal.

Second, thank you so much for sharing the Vicar's words. We have very few children at our children, but we are working diligently to breathe a space into the heart of our little community where we hope they will find themselves drawn, loved, and suitably fussed over. I want to tuck away this gem of an experience to remember for a time when I can be with our family of children in a prayerful way. Reading this email is a blessing to me.

And, perhaps off-blogline, we might chat about ECVA. I would really love for this diocese to bloom with the creative souls that grace our parishes. I'll try to think to email you soon. But should you write first, go through the email on my blog. I rarely check the one you have from past correspondence.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Ohm... Ahhhh. Awe

thank you.