...an overworked adjective today..
But it was truly awesome. Nightfever. A church glittering with candlelight, with some lovely gentle singing and teams of young people, bearing lanterns, fanning out across Soho, inviting people in to pray. The young people each had a few unlit candles in their pockets - those small tea-lights that work well as votive candles - and simply asked "Would you like to come in and light a candle?"
We gathered beforehand in the crypt at St Patrick's, Soho - you guessed that was the church, didn't you? Where so many good things happen - for a briefing, and I wondered if I wasn't too old to be taking part in such a venture. Nightfever was created by young people, and there was a great crowd of them there, filling the church for Mass, and gathering with a sense of seriousness for the evening of mission. But I was welcomed. A brief explanation...some guidelines and intsructions...some tea and sandwiches on offer...and we were off on the project.
Prayer is the most important thing., You spend part of the night in prayer before the Blessed sacrament, and then go out in shifts into the street...and then as you bring people in to pray (yes, they do come, and in great numbers) you stay briefly to pray again...and so on...
"I'm an atheist" was a response I got more than once to my offer of a candle and dropping in to pray "That makes no difference, does it?" I pointed out, and she, shrugged, laughed, accepted a candle and came in. Mostly, they gasp a bit on entrance - the lanterns line the main aisle, on the sanctuary is stands the great Monstrance where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration, there are lots of silent kneeling figures, and some quietly coming-and-going. Having accompanied the new arrival slowly up towards the altar, there is no need to do anyting more. They can find a place for the candle, kneel, write a prayer on one of the slips of paper if they wish, maybe pick up a lttle folded gift of Scripture verse from the basket...one just finds one's own place to pray, and leaves them to it.
"I'm gay - your lot think I will burn in hell". We don't argue...the offer to pray is for everyone and we've already made that clear. Some that start by being a bit antagonistic do then come in. Mostly, people stay for longer than expected.
Many people are hurrying to meet a friend and haven't time to stop.Some want to chat. Some say "I haven't been into a church in years..." Several ask why we are doing this - most accept that the idea is attractive. No one seems offended by the offer of a chance to pray.
We finished on the dot of 10.30, strictly to timetable. Compline - sung most beaiutifully - and then Benediction. It was absolutely unforgettable
I loved Nightfever. I'll be volunteering again.