August 4, 2020

All Loving God, It Is Night

We’ve been in Covid time for more than four months now. It has taken a while for us to realize our spiritual needs and desires and our abilities to meet them. The human contact, the Eucharist, the singing together, are all missed sorely. We find some of our spiritual longings are met by Zoom, a technology developed just in time to allow us to see each other, to connect, to gather, to pray together on Sunday.

Still, through the weeks, the end of the day is hard. More and more, people report having trouble getting to sleep, especially if they have checked in on the news in the hours prior. The what ifs, the hows, and the realities of our personal lives, the community and the nation are alarming or frightening or discouraging at best. Those who live alone have no one with whom to process the day, the week, the season. Others welcome a transition from day to night just as much.

Prayer helps. Prayer in community with others, can help even more.

At the Advocate we added Compline, nighttime prayers, on Zoom on Wednesdays at 8:30 PM. Initially, to take the place of the Wednesday evening Eucharist we used to hold in the chapel. The addition of Wednesday night Compline was simply to provide a way to gather and pray in the middle of the week, between the Sundays.

Very soon it became clear that this online Compline was more than that. It provided a welcome, needed way to end the evening in peace and in the company of others. It didn’t require a significant time commitment, it was calming, it was with other human beings.

After a few weeks, four of those who had been joining in on Wednesdays offered to each serve as officiant one evening each week, Monday – Thursday. Another month and three more people offered to officiate an evening each week, Friday-Sunday. Now we pray Compline every night.

The Zoom link is posted on our website, and the link is the same every day, every week. Simple. The prayers are posted on the website too, so folks can download for their own prayer time, or use them to follow along on the Zoom. We use the Book of Common Prayer rite, with psalms and prayers and the Nunc Dimittis, and also a time of intercessory prayer. That rite is supplemented by the closing prayer and benediction of Night Prayer given in A New Zealand Prayer Book. This ending washes over and through those gathered like a gentle blessing and a holy sedative. Each element is part of the economy of it all – the ancient, the time transcending, the present, the personal, the communal. And all in only 15 minutes.

A steady core is one the Compline Zoom each night, others come as they can. The regulars come from four different counties. Those who have small children join in when they are able to get the kids to bed in time. Sometimes they invite their older children to participate. The officiant invites someone to read the psalm, someone to read the scripture, and someone to read the prayer from New Zealand, providing a variety of voices. It is all organized without the Vicar; which is pure gift to a Covidtime-weary priest.

Each night, when the liturgy concludes, we happily and sleepily, albeit a bit reluctantly, bid each other good night.

After several attempts to add the daily office to the Advocate’s liturgical offerings through the years, both in person and online, Covid has given us the inclination and the desire to make it happen. Zoom has made it possible. Compline provides the essential content and doable duration. Thanks be to God.

From a New Zealand Prayer Book, Night Prayer.

All loving God,
it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in your presence.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all who are dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.
In your name we pray.

Benediction from New Zealand Night Prayer

Good friends,
Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
Render to no one evil for evil.
Hold fast that which is good;
strengthen the fainthearted;
help the afflicted;
honor and respect the dignity of everyone;
and rejoice in the power of the Spirit
In us,
and beyond us all.