Pastor Chris Wogaman
A Little Time to Pray
I’ve been in the storm so long, O give me a little time to pray.
–African American Spiritual
Music has so deeply formed every aspect of my life, from an early age. I think music does this for so many of us. Music gives us a way of hearing the world that makes sense to us, that challenges us, that ultimately moves us.
This Spiritual, “Been in The Storm So Long,” represents a stirring so deep in a soul that has been so tried by the world and its weight, that that soul cannot help but move. It is the song, in the voice of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, that got me through the time after the death of my beloved Grandma in 2007.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Reagon on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program via e-mail. Her response has stayed in my memory, and I was able to find its transcript. I wrote “your singing of ‘Been in the Storm So Long’ on the Smithsonian collection got me through my grandma's death a few years ago. Thank you for sharing your powerful, beautiful voice with the world. It's such wonderful music for the civil rights movement, but also for getting us through in daily life.”
Her response was an absolute gift. She remarked on the air that “‘I’ve Been in the Storm So Long’ is a song that says this life is a turbulent, fierce one. And it’s one where you are naming that you’re in a heavy, heavy period. But it’s a moving song. So when he says I played it to get through the death of someone close to me, he is actually putting into his space a sonic, musical energy that’s going to move him, so he’s not paralyzed. It will move him through the time.”
Today, her response to my comment still helps me see this fundamental truth about music: Music moves people through a challenging time. It did for me, and I bet music has done this for you as well at some time in your life, perhaps every day.
The deep wisdom in this Spiritual song centers on prayer, and this cry for grace: “Give me a little time to pray.”
I think we, at Trinity Lutheran Church, need to take a little time to pray. We’ve opened up conversations about our future. The conversations are hard to have. We can only have them with a full embrace of the crucified and risen Christ who saves and grounds us in God’s eternal being. Prayer helps center us, our thoughts and intentions, and prayer is the best way that a community in Christ can work together in his name.
So when the way forward is uncertain, but it must be faithful, prayer is not only the best way to continue this process of figuring things out: it’s the only way.
Starting on September 30th, we will spend some time in prayer in between services. Through this prayer, about 15-20 minutes during our fellowship hour, we will get to know our area better, its leaders, its churches, its schools, its social service organizations, names of landforms and forest preserves and bodies of water. We will get to know the names of people who sit on village boards and town councils, names of village and town mayors and presidents, the names of pastors, superintendents, teachers and principals in our area, and the names and situations of our sister churches in the Metro Chicago Synod’s Southwest Conference, of which I recently became Dean.
I need to know our context better. I think we all do. This will help to inform our way forward.
Because the need for ministry remains, even if we don’t exactly know what it will look like. What we do know is that Christ died for us, and that he calls us to minister to others, as we minister to ourselves, and to open ourselves to serving his will as faithfully as we are able.
We may not get concrete answers to all our questions through prayer, bring in new members, or even better, bring us out into our community more. But God will speak to us through prayer, and teach us to listen to God, to each other, and to those around us.
I’m looking forward to taking our next steps in ministry and mission with you. We need open hearts, open minds, and open eyes and ears, in this time ahead, to get from God the little bit of light to take that next step. And I trust to God, through prayer, to move us forward into God’s future for us.
May God bless you every day!