What if we take the beauty of our ancient liturgies out to the world?
Praxis Communities invited several Cincinnati area parishes to help host “flash compline” during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Flash mobs are groups of people who assemble suddenly in public places for some kind of act for a brief time and then quickly disperse. Often these flash mobs are offered for the purposes of entertainment or artistic expression.
We decided to see if we could use this idea to offer a brief time of prayer in our city. It is a bit like a church bell tolling, naming the time of day and invitation for a brief pause and a call to prayer in the midst of our busy lives. We chose compline because it is the shortest of our daily prayer services in the Book of Common Prayer and it is a beautiful and peaceful way to end the day.
We hope to start a movement to re-discover one of the church’s ancient prayer services. We encourage you to offer “flash prayer” in your community.
Some Helpful Tools for Planning your own Prayer Services:
1. Have a clear worship guide or extra prayer books. We would generally bring handouts with the prayer service printed on it. We experimented with a QR code that could be scanned and people could pull up the service on their smart phones to read along. Depending on your group and location that could work. We found if people on the street or others didn’t have a smart phone that could be limiting as well. Here is a sample of the Order for Compline that we often used. You can adapt and change the psalm or verse to one appointed for the day. You could also have space for a reflection from one person or the community. You could also use your favorite prayer service or way of praying instead!
2. Music is nice (although not necessary). We found singing was a nice way to draw people in and to put ourselves in a more contemplative frame of mind. It is a new experience for most of us, to pray in a public place with cars and buses and people talking and laughing all around us. If you can find a musician to go with you that’s wonderful, but a simple a cappella song is just as lovely. A Taize chant or other simple song works well or a verse or two of a favorite hymn. Here is an example of a compline service we did that began with “O Come Thou Fount” We also tried sung compline when we had a group of choral singers with us. You could also just bring some bells or a chime or other simple instrument (we love our shrudi box!) to create some beautiful sounds while you are praying.
3. Make it fun! We have tried candles, incense, or even sparklers! We brought hot chocolate when it was cold out and often would gather afterwards for a drink or dessert at a local establishment. Be invitational, don’t be afraid to ask people to join you. At the same time, don’t make it complicated. The act of 2 or 3 people (or 20) pausing to pray is a sign of God’s presence in our frantic lives. Let God work through your witness and in your community.
4. Let people know what you are doing and partner with other friends and neighbors! They don’t have to be from your church or even your denomination…they might just enjoy sharing in a time of prayer for your city or neighborhood. Northside Abbey created a Night Prayer service and litany that they have prayed for the community of Northside. St. John’s in Franklinton has a Service of Hope and Healing for their Community. Create a flyer, a Facebook page, an announcement blurb that you can share with other churches. Here is the flyer we created with a QR code: Compline on the Square. Let us know if you have any resources for planning prayer services like this, we would love to share them!