As churches all over the world wait expectantly for Christ’s birth and his second coming, Grace Community Christian Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Ill., used Advent prayer stations to reflect on what it means to wait.
Worship coordinator Diane Ritzema organized nine prayer stations for church and community members to go through at their own pace. The theme “As We Wait” was chosen based on the church’s Advent sermon series. “Each station had to do with waiting or what we can be doing now in the time until the second coming,” Ritzema said.
The stations were set up in classrooms in the church. Each focused on a different sense: maps as a visual for praying for the world, salt to taste as a reminder to be the salt of the earth, recordings of the song of Mary playing in the background. At each station, people were invited to pray and reflect. “Having other senses involved has really heightened the experience,” Ritzema added.
John Rosier, a member at Grace Community Church, finds visual cues helpful as he worships and prays. “For the first 70 years of my life, there were very few visuals [in church]. So much of what you learn is visual. That’s one of the reasons that Advent prayer stations are good,” he said, referring to the use of the senses in prayer. “It’s very rewarding.”
Ritzema noted that she strategically uses ordinary, commonplace items in the prayer stations. “When we see those items in our everyday lives, we might remember the prayer station and how we used that item to pray,” she said.
The church also hosts prayer stations during Lent and other times during the year. The tradition began six years ago as an alternative worship service on a Saturday night. Over time it evolved to be what it is today. Anyone from the church or community could come during the morning hours of the two days they were set up and spend time in prayer.
“Those who come feel so blessed by it,” Ritzema said. “Some people come stressed and hurried, and they leave calm and at peace. It’s such a transformation in just 45 minutes to an hour.”
Ritzema is also excited to see a transformation in other churches. A couple of women who go through the stations are members of a local Roman Catholic church. “They have been so blessed by our prayer stations that they have now started hosting them at their church. We are thrilled to share ideas and see God at work in other churches as well.”