In many churches, St Mary’s included, there is at least one, often two short public service of daily prayer. Here in St Mary’s we have morning prayer at 9.30 and a dedicated band of people take turns in leading. There are generally between five and ten people who come – sometimes more and sometimes less.
For almost a couple of years now we’ve been experimenting with an evening service on Saturdays which is convened online rather than in church. After a break in the summer, that has now started up again.
When I first participated in a daily tradition of prayer I was working in the University of London in one of the University Chaplaincies. I remember once saying to someone in the college that I needed to get back for Evening Prayer and his response has stuck with me. “Say one for me” he said. He was not someone who would ever dream of coming to the service itself but somehow it mattered to him that prayer was offered in that place.
Something of the same thing is going on with the online service. There’s a small band of people who do it – never more than 10 because we don’t have the technology for more than 10. Sometimes we’ve approached that number but more often it is just a few of us. I find that when I tell people that prayer is offered in a google hangout online they are really interested but far fewer come and join in than care about it. There’s obvious delight in the very idea from some people who don’t ever make it into the hangout. There’s a touch of “say one for me” about the experience, I suspect.
People are also interested in what it feels like.
Interestingly the experience that it has most felt like to me is morning prayer at St Mary’s. I guess I am generally comfortable living life online and more so than many. However, it doesn’t really feel any different to me.
I’m interested in this because I know that clergy find it hard to say the daily office on their own. No, let me be more truthful, I know that I find it hard to say the daily office on my own. When I worked in a smaller church I could never quite drag myself into church to say it publicly and I shared what quite a lot of people say – that it makes them feel lonely. Now sometimes you can get yourself in th mood by reminding yourself that you say it with the saints and angels and with all the company of heaven, including those who are saying the same words in many different situations. There’s a core truth that you never pray alone which I believe. However, that is often easier to belief than to feel.
Saying the office online is one way that groups of people could chose to build into their spiritual practise. The little group that does it at St Mary’s now has been doing it long enough to be able to offer tips and I’d welcome any questions or enquiries. Best thing to do, of course, is just turn up to one of our services in cyberspace.
There’s more detail here: