It has been almost seven months since I have been to L’Arche in Lynchburg for Spiritual Life Night. I went tonight and it was like a homecoming of sorts. I was invited to stay and sing (not realizing that was why I was there). I was asked about baby J and Megan. There were bright smiles and huge hugs.

Then, without instruction or directions, chairs became to circle up and we all took our places. The red song books were handed out, and one by one we sang each person’s favorite hymn. It was gloriously out of tune. And it was awesome! Through “I’ve Got the Joy” and “Amazing Grace,” we made a joyful noise.

I shared with them the story of Elijah and how God comforted him as we learned at Vacation Bible School at Peakland. Then I shared with them the inspiration behind the Mitten Monsters that the children made to share comfort with others. Each of the core members chose a Mitten Monster. They were surprised that they are thought of and grateful for the kindness. I was told multiple times to tell the children thank you.

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I then asked the group if they had anything they wanted to pray about. They named members of the L’Arche community and family members. They were deeply concerned about the violence they were hearing about on the evening news. They were troubled by the reports of racism and the ugly expressions it was making. They were deeply worried about cops being killed and cops killing innocent people.

When it came time to pray, I paused for a brief second and then asked if any of them wanted to pray tonight. Two core members volunteered. Gordon got it started off, praying for our country and the end of racism. Pam continued praying for her father and the senseless violence that is filling the streets across the country. Then, unplanned, Cass started praying naming each person in the room and some who were not in the room. Darren wrapped up the prayer time praying for a family member.

The prayers were natural or organic. It flowed like a stream, moving around one bend to the next. It was amazing and beautiful.

And it was church. And it filled my heart with joy.