To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:4 ESV
Recently Dave from Dave’s Daily Dose wrote on the subject of solemn assembly. For those not aquatinted with solemn assembly, it is a meeting something like a prayer vigil involving an entire church. I remarked that I remembered prayer vigils -vigílias de oraçãoes- at our Brazilian church where we served on staff for about 14 years. When Dave challenged me to write about it, in spite of my fear of diving into the deep end of the subject, I had to accept his double dog dare!
But to explain the unique experience of a vigília will take at least two posts. Today, I will just offer a little glimpse of what the Brazilian church in America is like. Like a fish being unaware of water because he is in, none of us really understands our own cultural inheritance and the Brazilian community is no exception. So f there are any Brazilians out there in my reading audience, I apologize if I am over simplifying, but if I were to start with a single word, it would be saudade – roughly translated homesick. Though saudade may fade after many years here in America, it is never truly absent and it touches every part of life. It effects who you work with, what food you cook, who you tell your secrets to and most of all how you pray. Saudade includes a deep longing for things that are far beyond our control and forces us into a desperate dependence on God.
But when we as Americans think of prayer we think of our devotional time, our prayer closet and time alone with Jesus. But Brazilians almost never do anything alone. If somebody has a baby, not only the entire family, but also half the neighborhood shows up at the maternity room to visit! Communion at church often included all of us crowded around the front to receive it together. Birthday parties for a one year old featured more than half the church showing up of every age and of course lots of food!
When the church was healthy, that same togetherness happened when we went to prayer. In fact, that unhurried time at the altar with people all around each asking for God’s help, was the single greatest attraction of us when we began attending. That intensity of community prayer was and is a special part of the inheritance that God has given the Brazilian church and the single greatest reason we remained through thick and thin for so long.
Tomorrow, I promise I’ll dive straight into what it is like being a part of my favorite -vigília de oração of the year – New Years Eve, so stay tuned and have a blessed week!