The river of God: Next Church conference contemplative worship

IMG_4687MINNEAPOLIS – The congregants sat during evening worship in the balcony, looking down over a river of blue fabric draped over the seats below. “The river of God,” said worship leader Kara Root of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church.

“There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God,” she read from Psalm 46. Also: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The service, April 1 at the NEXT Church national gathering in Minneapolis, was quiet and contemplative, filled with silence. As they entered, participants took blue slips on which they wrote down their worries, asking for prayer. A bit later, they passed the offering plates, heavy-laden with their fears and concerns.

Near the end of the service, people filed down the stairs from the balcony to the main floor, each lighting a candle to lay at the river of God. Worship leaders read aloud from the anonymous blue slips of pain.

What were these fears – unspoken, but bearing down these hearts?

Taxes. Feeling overwhelmed. Health concerns.

“Oh Lord, I am lonely. I am scared to be myself. Oh Lord, I feel so tired.”

Fear of what’s coming next, fear of the unknown. Embracing the new.

Churches leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Lethargic congregations; those in  conflict.

“Money, security, health. What’s next for my ministry and me?”

IMG_4650Fear of going where God sends me.

Children, parents, family, friends.

Broken relationships. New relationships.

Prayers he will stop drinking.

Worries of how my children will respond to the divorce.

Fear of not getting a job. Fear of retirement.

The wedding. Classes. Graduate school.

Fear of infertility.

“I fear being alone, without a partner and soul-mate. I fear choosing the wrong person.”

IMG_4673Living so far from home and family, “not alone but lonely.”

“Accompany me through cancer and chemo.”

Exile. Starting again. Not being good enough.

Overweight, burned out, angry, in debt.

“Lord, what comes after May? Where will the money come from?”

“I fear that I am not enough. Enough mom, enough wife, enough pastor.”

“Fear of not finding my true calling.”

Fear of making wrong decisions.

“Desire to be known for something that matters. Desire to do something that matters.”

“Can I do it? Will I do it? Can it be done?”

IMG_4701The service ended in silence, the prayer candles shimmering by the river. People sat for a while, amid the quiet sounds of water flowing and of weeping.