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Common Prayer During a Pandemic

By Thomas Fickley

This morning we set up our living room for morning prayer with the parish at 10:00. We can't meet our fellow parishioners in person right now, yet our parish has the Daily Office, and many of our families gathered around the same time in their own homes for Common Prayer. At our house we are trying to save elements of the liturgy the boys love -- the flowers, candles, and a procession with a cross and hymn remind the boys of what we're doing with the church and help them focus for prayers. We tried a similar setup last week, and I was impressed with their enthusiasm.

The best part is they know what to do! Their Anglican formation has come in handy in wonderful ways despite our separation (in body) during the pandemic. From their many Sundays participating in the mass -- not squirreled away out of sight and ear-shot -- they know how to pray with other people, and the order of the service keeps them on the tracks. I saw some beautiful evidence of good formation earlier today.

When I was about to start a short lesson on the Gospel reading (which the boys asked me to chant), my oldest son, Adam, who is six years old, interrupted to tell me I forgot the announcements. I told him to make them, and he said: "The beautiful altar flowers this week are given to the glory of God by Johnny and James" (who picked the flowers from our garden). Johnny, who is four years old, interrupted the Gospel chanting to shout: "I know this story from Sr. Lynda's class!" The timing was poor, but his joy over knowing the Scriptures was brilliant. Both of them have been shaped by their worship at our parish, All Saints.

Other than that, they prayed the Our Father, said the Nicene Creed together, sang Hymn 151 to the tune of the Tallis Canon, and stood and knelt at all the right times. Common Prayer is a gift for the growth of little souls! I realized this morning that they know more about piety, prayer, and devotion than I did until I was a teenager. Amazing.

Anything familiar breeds fondness with young ones. A few years ago they saw a prie-dieu that I had built and asked if I could make some that were their size. We now have one for each of the boys who are old enough to talk. We use them daily, but now that we're saying morning prayer on Sunday morning they are especially useful for giving the boys a place to go and reminding them about what they are doing.

I want to find a way to get more of these children's prayer desks to families at the parish that want them for their children. They are small enough for bedrooms or in-home chapel corners, give the kids a place to go for prayers, one which they recognize and know how to use from the mass, and are pretty affordable. I can make the oak ones for c. $40-$50 and pine for $20 or less. They are pretty simple, but they have made our family's prayer life easier and more joyful. Tomorrow I will post directions on how to build one!

Thomas Fickley teaches literature at The Covenant School in Charlottesville, Virginia. He and his wife have five sons under the age of seven.


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