One of the biggest surprises (in a good way) to me during this time of being “scattered, yet together” has been the response to Compline. When the pandemic began and I was looking for ways for us to come together online I thought of doing the short prayer service of Compline every evening at 8. I wondered if I wanted to commit to doing a service every weeknight, but then thought, “Oh, it’s just for a couple of weeks, so that will be fine.”
Well, here we are five months later, and Compline, or Night Prayers, is still going strong, every evening Monday-Friday.
I was wrong about something else, too. I wondered if anyone would actually join Joe, Joseph Henry, and me each evening. We’d be lucky to get five or six people, I thought. Five months in our total number of Facebook views for Compline is 12,344. And that does not include our very first service which went mini-viral with 5,200 views (more about that in a minute).
In those early days we would regularly get 100-200 views, sometimes more. In the ensuing months that has decreased a bit, but we still regularly get between 45-70 views each night.
What I have heard from the “regulars” is that Compline gives shape to their day. Coming together in prayer, even online, gives us a sense of community, and answers a need to be connected with one another and with God. It also helps release the tension and worries of the day, As one of the prayers we regularly use says, “What has been done has been done. What has not been done has not been done. Let it be.”
Of the more than 100 evening services we have done so far, three stand out to me:
The first is our inaugural service, when our cat Maisie, affectionately known as the Devil Cat, saw the whole family gathered in the dining room and came to see what was going on. She then showed the truth of her nickname by attacking me and not letting go of my arm until Joseph Henry stepped in to take her away. The attack and the ensuing laughter as we tried to make it through the rest of the service is what made Maisie go viral.
The second is when Joseph Henry and I made a quick day-trip to Chattanooga to visit my parents. We hit unexpected heavy traffic on the way home and realized we weren’t going to be back in time for Compline. So we pulled off I–75 at Lake Allatoona and had Compline al fresco, with the beautiful lake as a backdrop.
The third is the most poignant service, when we held a special liturgy to mark 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, lighting 100 candles and tolling our bell 100 times. Sadly, more milestones are on the horizon as we near 5,000 deaths in Georgia and more than 170,000 in the country.
I have given up trying to predict how much longer it will be before life, and church, return to some semblance of normal. But to all who have embraced the “new normal” of coming together for prayer each evening, thank you.
And the service for this week is attached.