“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak. For God will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” Psalm 85:8
It is often my habit when Wes is directing the Women’s Chorus to attend Sunday school. Two or three years back, I visited The New Class. Kempton Haynes, long-time member, United Methodist Minister, pastoral counselor and therapist, was in charge. There was a fine lesson, and as it concluded at 10:40 a.m., Kempton promptly stood up and dismissed the class and invited everyone to move on to our 11:00 a.m. service in the sanctuary. As I had wanted to make my exit for the same reason, and worried how I would do so without appearing rude, this delighted me. Actually, I was shocked, happily so, that Kempton and this class showed so much commitment to the worship of God.
From that morning on I looked for Kempton in the sanctuary on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. He was always there or shortly thereafter, moving into a center pew and sitting quietly in the character of prayer until 11:00 a.m. Why? I asked him to write his reasons, and with his permission, I copy them below.
It is important for me on a Sunday morning to make a transition from the interaction of the Sunday School hour, as delightful as that may be, to a still space in which I can, not focus, but “unfocus.” This allows me to let the prelude take me where it will… Kempton Haynes, March 13, 2014.
There are others in the sanctuary as well, taking similar advantage of this time before the Call to Worship. This is the ideal time to pray. There, on the day our forebears and we designated, in the holy sanctuary our ancestors fashioned for this purpose, in the company of our Christian sisters and brothers and the angels, we come to encounter God. It doesn’t matter that during this time our prayers are not coordinated temporally or cognitively with others. The confluence of place, the spiritual and corporal presence of fellow worshipers, and God magnifies our prayers exponentially. Possibly even more important than offering formal, private prayers is simply to sit in silence, apprehending the moving voluntaries and the awing holiness of our sanctuary. And, as Kempton said, to “unfocus.” With heart and soul open, in the beauty of holiness, we may release and engage our souls with God. Though silent, this is nevertheless profoundly social and communal, for it effects a holy, spiritual propinquity among our sisters and brothers and the Holy Spirit. This is the only such opportunity we have each week; it is priceless, to be valued above all things, for everything depends on our relationship with God.
While we may not be able to rationally articulate what we have learned, for, as in Paul, this inspires “sighs too deep for words,” this unfocused time with God prepares us to “hear what God the Lord will speak” in the ensuing service. God will respond and bless and strengthen us to proceed in His will and grace as we move from worship into the world.