Communal Prayer

This past summer, I spent 4 weeks interviewing people who had been involved with the underground prayer groups in the former East Germany. These prayer groups became very well known, when, in the fall of 1989, they spread out from the churches to meet the aspiration of the street leading to the largest demonstrations in the history of the eastern block (the Montagsdemonstrationen). In October 1989, there were often more than half a million people out on the streets in Leipzig, many of them with vigil candles in their hands that had been lighted at evening prayer. What is most intriguing for me, as I listened to pastors and lay people tell their story, was the unique way in which these instances of communal prayer (they were called Friedensgebete – prayer for peace) were not only rooted in the classic structure of the daily office but at the same time were radically open to receiving and integrating the cry from the street, the cry, the desire, the aspiration of many both believers and non-believers. I continue to work on this theme of communal prayer (or daily office) exploring how these young people understood and lived out their baptismal vocation.

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