Here on the Cafe a while back, we had a conversation about how the church should make itself present on Black Friday. I suggested that the church needed to do more than bemoan commercialism, and wondered whether we might develop an Advent counterpart to the extremely successful Ashes to Go initiative that was coordinated in February by the Rev. Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard, Ill.
To our surprise, the Rev. Noah Evans put his mind to this question and gave it a go, and he was succesful enough to get the Boston Globe to take notice. The story is here, and Noah's own account is below:
A Blessing Station at the Station
This morning, during the darkest week of the year, a small team of us from Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Massachusetts, stood at the West Medford Commuter Rail Station with a Blessing Station. In an attempt to help be part of Christ’s light during this darkest week of the year, we offered blessings and prayers to anyone who walked by. We were inspired by “Ashes to Go,” and some discussions on Episcopal Café, and were wondering about others ways to help bring the message of the Church outside onto the streets.
Doing this was completely outside of my comfort zone – the day before I found myself hoping that it would rain, and we would have to cancel. I was nervous about leaving the safe walls of the church, and offering sacramental ministry in an unfamiliar way. I was afraid that no one would come up for a prayer, and I would just feel embarrassed. But, while doing it, in became easy. It was beautiful and moving to pray with perfect strangers, acquaintances I knew from my son’s school and Grace Church parishioners who were on their way to work. It felt like doing God’s work, and like we were part of Christ’s healing light to a hurting and broken world.
We held a sign that said “Blessing Station: Come Experience a Moment of Advent Peace in the Midst of Life’s Busyness.” We offered folks who came by laying on of hands, prayers, and anointing with oil, if they wanted it. We gave them a card with an invitation to our Healing Service that night and our Christmas Eve Celebrations. In just over an hour over 20 people came for a blessing. Some wanted prayers for protection of their children in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, a mother who was in the hospital, help as unemployment was running out, just general prayers for the day and thanksgiving for children. Some folks just walked by and said as passing by, “what a great message…” and “this gives me hope…”
In fact it was so amazing; we are going to a bus stop this evening to offer blessing during the commute home…