As the skyline of Hartford drew near and I eased myself off route 2 into it's labryinth of streets, the arteries in which life flows through our state's capitol, pumping commerce, pollution, dreams and pain, I rechecked the directions I had hastily scribbled on notebook paper. It had been awhile since I last drove through Hartford at night. The driving is definitely different than in the small town in which we live. Lots more stop lights, lots more people drifting across the street. Imade effort in being particularly mindful. I noticed how the city itself at night seems to be living and breathing and really how intriguing it is in its unashamed juxtaposition of beauty and grit.
I must have driven past the place it was being held about three times. It was located on a one way road so I kept having to circle back through a grid of streets to try again. I couldn't believe I hadn't tried to get a contact number, in case I got lost. Here I was in Hartford, in the dark, and in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I fnally, after examining the directions, figured I had to be at the right location and parked on an adjacent street close by. I hadn't realized it was being held in someone's apartment. My husband had asked me that question, I wasn't sure on the answer but I've been to some political parties/meeting before and I figured it was going to be held in some rented room. Ok..someone's home...in a foreign area, with people I don't know. This should be interesting!
As I got out of the car, I wasn't sure quite where to go. I figured I'd eventually make my way to the suspected apartment building and see what happened. A young man, in his early twenties was walking up the sidewalk, seeing the paper in my hand he asked with a level of enthusiasm, "Are you here for the prayer party?" A answered in the affirmative in which he very warmly welcomed me to the apartment's entrance where he introduced me to his fiance.
When I entered the apartment I was welcomed very warmly by those present. I noticed a table set up with some new copies of the book, which, through a random drawing I was fortunate to receive. There were also candles and copies of the publication Conspire. Everyone was primarily from three groups-the host and his friends from a church in Newington-Mill Pond Church, and the others were primarily from the Hartford City Missions and The Catholic Worker. The atmosphere was very inviting as was the conversation. I didn't know anybody, there were many who didn't know some present, but that didn't seem to matter at all. Christ was the theme of the night and the factor which united us all in mutual understanding.
We read the Saturday night prayer, from the book, which was amazing. I liken it to be similiar in its objective and layout to The Divine Hours books. There are liturgical prayers and songs for each day throughout the year. A set for the morning, afternoon and night. It's a beautiful and meaningful way to keep focused and devoted towards Christ throughout one's day and it's a neat after thought to think of others praying and singing the same songs at similiar times as well. That's a thought that comes to mind from time to time which I use my book, The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle.
I'm going to show my lack of Catholic knowledge here, but the text in the book is similiar to what is read during mass. I'm not sure what the book is called (someone help me out if you know!), but where the priest will read a line and then the congregation will read, in turn all together, another part. The book can be used by individuals but its aim is to draw groups of people together, creating communities of prayer, communities centered on Christ, communities of hope. I'm hoping to use it with my family and perhaps introduce it to some friends who might be interested. It's definitely a book one wants to share and use with others.
About half the room was catholic, the other half including myself, protestants. It showed an interesting trend of the incorporation of liturgical prayer some protestants are now drawing towards to find more depth, discipline and meaning in their daily devotions and walk with God.
After we read the evening prayer, the host, Alex, lit a candle and then one by one, from that single flame in which Alex' candle had begun burning, we lit ours. We celebrated Advent together and Christ. And then we prayed. We prayed for our faiths to be continually rekindled, we prayed for those sleeping cold and hungry that night, and for many other things. For sure, through the devotion and love towards Christ displayed in that room, God was glorified.
We exchanged information and my hopes is to keep communicating with many of those I had met last night. The Common Prayer release party was more than just a party showing off a new book. It drew many different people together, from different denominations, that all had the same passion in their hearts. Christ. Christ was exalted and he was seen in the eyes of those who prayed and those who glorified him through their service for him. I know it inspired me to seek new ways in which to serve God and man and it was encouraging to meet others that feel that not only should we serve God's children but we should also be mindful towards the environment and how animals are treated as well. ( I thought it very refreshing to meet some other Christians who are vegetarian too!...something not often found, at least from my experience.)
Would I recommend the book? Well, I haven't entirely read it yet, but absolutely! Those that wrote it took great care and consideration and undoubtedly much prayer to create a devotional book which will prove to aid groups of people in experiencing Christ more in their lives and spur them on in growing deeper in their faiths. The authors who wrote the book are both men who live out the gospel daily in their own lives, which adds to their credibility. They have also each authored many thought-provoking and stirring publications which I'd be sure to check out while you are at the bookstore purchasing your copy of Common Prayer. (Check out Irresistible Revolution:Living as an Ordinary Radical by Claiborne for starters!)