for Advent: Prayers of the People stations

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The “Christmas season” (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) is a frantic time.  Families are coordinating travel, stores are packed from open to close, and budgets and patience are stretched as we try to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list.

During Advent 2012, Light of the World Lutheran Church (in Dakota County, Minn.) turned the Prayers of the People into prayers by the people.  Small decorated tables were set up throughout the worship space to encourage reflective prayer.

We can invite worshippers into a time of rest and peace by creating space during the Prayers of the People for quiet reflection, guided meditation, and focused prayer.

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Related scripture:
Prayerful texts from the Advent Year B lectionary:
* Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
* Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
* Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
* Psalm 126
* Isaiah 40:1-11
* Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
* Luke 1:46b-55
* 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Liturgical elements involved:
* Prayers of the People

Appropriate for:
* Any series of Sundays, such as Advent, Epiphany, or Lent

Supplies needed:
– tables, rolling carts, or other small raised areas
– candles and lighters
– any other series of supplies that can be useful for decoration or meditation.  This includes but is in no way limited to:
– cloth for draping, especially in liturgical colors
– smooth stones
– baskets, paper, and pens for written prayers
– illustrated books, such as children’s picture books or the Saint John’s Bible
– meditative books, such as Advent devotionals, daily readings, or hymnals

Key people:
– Whoever is willing to set up prayer stations:  altar guild, volunteers, kids, etc.
– Pastor

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Preparation:
1.  Determine what will be used for stations (tables, rolling carts, etc. — stacked boxes, covered with cloth, would work well!) and where the stations will be located.
2.  Assemble prayer station team (altar guild, volunteers, etc.).  Invite them to bring supplies from home, if they want to.
3.  Assess what the church currently has for supplies:  candles, cloth, books, and so on.  Raid the pastor’s office, the church library, the Sunday School cupboards (with permission for all these, of course).

4.  Determine how the time for prayer stations will “sound”.  Some options include:
– with music played by musicians, either instrumental or with vocals
– with music played over speakers, either instrumental or with vocals
– with guided prayer, led by the pastor or other leader
– with readings, from Scripture or devotional texts
It would be possible to offer prayer silently, but a lack of background noise may make people less comfortable with scooting out of their chairs and pews.

Clarify with whoever will be providing sound.

5.  Decide on time.
Prayer stations can take longer than responsive Prayers of the People.  Determine how long they can be available, and what may have to be adjusted elsewhere in the service to allow for it.

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Liturgy:

To begin, the leader says:
The Christmas season can be a frantic and busy time.  We may be constantly on the run.  We can be struggling to plan visits to family, find the perfect presents, get school and work projects done before the end of the year.  If we’ve just been through a breakup, or lost a loved one, or have strained relationships with family, we can feel it even more during this holiday season.

Into all that comes the church’s gift of Advent.  This season is a time of preparing for Christmas, but not in the hectic way of wrapping presents and cleaning house.  It is a time to prepare ourselves, our hearts, our hopes for the coming of Christ.

During the season of Advent, we will transform our usual Prayers of the People time into time for meditation and prayer at stations around the church.  You are welcome to stay in your seat, or to get up and move to a prayer station near you.

Music or readings are offered.

Prayer time concludes:
All our prayers are gathered into God.  Holy One, may our hearts find rest in you.  In your name, we pray.  Amen.

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