Our college ministry director, Joel, had an idea for an area where people could kind of quiet themselves before entering the main sanctuary during our week of 24/7 prayer. I loved the basic idea, and I definitely saw the need. I have stood near the entrance in past years of 24/7 and watched as people sometimes rush up to the entry doors, hurry in past the inner black curtains which seperate the foyer from the sanctuary, and then enter all the way in, only to kind of glance around, walk quickly to the left, then to the right, restless, searching, as if they are on a scavenger hunt in a shopping mall, and if they don't see what they want quickly enough, they need to move on. They were no doubt coming off busy days, fitting this time in between other commitments, and it was hard to know where to rest, or how to start.
Joel had the idea this year to transform our little "everyday" prayer room, which is literally not much bigger than if it truly were a prayer closet, into some sort of a calming entry area. I can't remember what he called it, but I kept finding myself referring to it as a "decompression chamber."
Joel was going to enlist some of the students from our college ministry to help with his vision, but he was incredibly busy, and as it turned out, two of the other college ministry leaders, Clark and Suzy, stepped in and took it on, both developing and bringing about the vision, and enlisting a few students along the way.
When I first saw Clark working on it . . . I admit . . . I wasn't sure. I LOVED his vision to take pictures of many of us and hang them to underscore "I am, you are, we are the house of prayer," and how that connected us with each other and with the theme before even entering. But I wasn't sure how this simple idea would create the peaceful transitional area we had talked about. There had to be more.
But that really was it -- less was more -- and it was just perfect! The photos, hung in a grid-like design with soft lighting, and the chairs lining the walls of the room, opening up a feeling of space in the small area, created a soothing, warm and comforting "waiting room" feel -- a place to rest, calm down, focus, center, etc., until one was ready to enter.
Suzy hand lettered some signs, one near a box on a desk, with some blank cards and pens, where people were encouraged to sit and leave their cares, burdens, concerns, behind before entering. Many did, and over the week the box filled up.
On the door next to the entry into the foyer, she had written an encouragment for people to stop and take some time before entering any further. I saw many folks ready to hurry into the foyer, see the sign, stop short, and then turn back into the room to sit for a while. Some for a long while.
It made me think of a quote from "Clinging: The Experience of Prayer" by Emilie Griffin, where she talks about why and how it is so hard to set aside time for prayer, even if it's only five minutes. She goes on to say that perhaps it is not the five minutes for prayer that is hard to set aside, but the twenty minutes beforehand, that we intuitively know we will need before we are even settled enough to enter into the five.
This entry area, this "decompression chamber," helped people enter in not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, by providing a peaceful transition point from the hurry and rush of their busy worlds and lives, into the quiet and peace of an oasis of time with God.