I started Night Church last year, as an experiment in an alternative worship service. We meet on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. For some reason, it seems to be very satisfying for those who attend. So I thought I’d try and describe it to you.
One of the participants calls Night Church: “Bible Study” in disguise. It isn’t really. It’s more of a spiritual formation group. We read a couple of the passages from the Lectionary for the following Sunday. And then I ask: “what did you hear?” And from there, the discussion just takes off. Pretty much any question goes. Last week, a couple of questions came up about the Beatitudes, and about Micah 6:8: “Love kindness.” We had some discussion about the Hebrew and Greek words for mercy.
Here’s some background about those words: here’s the Hebrew word that was translated as kindness in Micah 6:8: chesed–which can be translated as lovingkindness. Mercy is a less usual translation, but it can be used. The following comes from an article on Mercy on the Taize website. I happened upon it by chance.
“Hesed is one of the most beautiful words in the Bible. It is often translated simply by love…Hesed, mercy or love, is part of the vocabulary of the covenant. On God’s side, it stands for an steadfast love, one able to keep alive a relationship forever, regardless of what happens: “My love will never depart from you” (Isaiah 54:10). But since God’s covenant with his people is a story of broken promises and new beginnings from the very start (Exodus 32–34), it is evident that such an unconditional love includes forgiveness; it must of necessity be merciful.
Eleos also is used to translate another Hebrew word, rachamim. This word is often used together with hesed, but is more emotionally loaded. Literally it stands for the bowels; it is a plural form of rechem, a mother’s womb. Mercy or compassion is here a love which is felt, the deep affection of a mother for her little child (Isaiah 49:15), the tenderness of a father for his offspring (Psalm 103:13), an intense love between brothers and sisters (Genesis 43:30).”
Taizé – Mercy
After we talk for a while, usually about a half-an-hour, we offer prayers of the people, usually very specific intercessions, or prayers of thankgiving. We conclude the prayers with the Peace, and then share the Lord’s Supper. I started using grape juice and non-gluten wafers for inclusivity. This winter, the gathering has been a light in the darkness, and the warmth of the group goes with us, when we drive off into the cold. If we keep on meeting, and I hope we do, we might have to have more than one Night Church a week. Kinda cool.