At the 5:30 pm service of Holy Eucharist at St. Alban’s Parish on Sundays sometimes a sermon gives way to a group reflection. Tonight, after hearing from scripture about conversion and resurrection (Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus and the miraculous catch of fish in John 21) I asked the congregation to spend a minute or two remembering moments of conversion or transformation in their lives and invited folks to share what came to mind or caused a change in mind. I added the that the experiences need not be “profound.”
After less than a couple of minutes we heard a story about someone’s first time to “pray out loud” on behalf of another. The experience came, interestingly enough, while the supplicant was taking a smoke break outside a bar. The next story we heard came from a man whose daughter, despite having been counseled otherwise by members of her own family, had recently expressed faith in her father despite a history that tonight he confessed was less than trustworthy. We prayed together that his new trajectory remain straight.
Another story we heard seemed modest compared to the others. A church member recalled that many years ago, after reluctantly agreeing to visit Oklahoma with an evangelical roommate, found himself at a prayer service in a tiny church attended by local farmers – people he described as “plain and simple folk.” At the meeting they were sharing the reasons that they believed in God. After his roommate suggested that the beauty of nature – the mountains and sky – was reason enough for his faith in God the plain and simple farmer folk said, “We just believe.”
After hearing another story we celebrated Holy Eucharist, held hands to recite The Lord’s prayer, shared the bread and the wine and sang hymns. After the dismissal I visited a bit with a newcomer and then went upstairs to record the service in the Vestry. When I came downstairs I encountered a woman observing the 5pm Spanish Language service through the glass doors that lead from the Narthex to the Nave of the church. She had that look – the look of the many visitors who make their way into the almost always open doors of our beautiful church while visiting the Cathedral close. I introduced myself and answered a couple of questions about St. Alban’s and its relationship to the Cathedral. As we walked out of the Narthex toward Wisconsin Avenue where her party was waiting, I asked her if she was a visitor. “Yes,” she said, “we are farmers, visiting from Oklahoma.”