As a church kid, I’ve known the Lord’s Prayer practically all my life. I memorized it in Sunday School and then again in Bible Drill; our pastors referred to it frequently; and when my church served communion once a quarter, the Lord’s Prayer set to music was always the finale. At the end of the service, we’d all stand and join hands across the aisles, and listen to the organ swelling, and then join our voices in the prayer Jesus taught us (though I admit that musical version gets a little operatic at the end).
At Highland, at St Aldates and now at Brookline, the Lord’s Prayer is a weekly occurrence, recited in unison by the congregation and whoever’s up front. And each time I hear it, wherever I am, I hear other layers of voices in my head – and for a moment I’m all three places at once.
I’m at St Aldates, where the accents are British and the Lord’s Prayer comes as part of the liturgy they use every week. (That liturgy is interspersed with praise songs, but they still use the Book of Common Prayer for confession, communion, etc.) I can see Charlie in his gray suit, or Simon in his black jacket, and hear both their voices saying, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
I’m at Highland, where the prayer usually comes after a few songs, sometimes after another prayer or another Scripture reading. I’m often on stage at Highland, in a line of nine people holding microphones (usually standing next to Jeremiah), reciting the prayer with a thousand other voices. Sometimes I close my eyes; sometimes I look out over the congregation at the faces I love. I can hear Mike’s voice, and Jeremiah’s, and the voices of many elders and church leaders. (At Highland, we say “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”)
And I’m at Brookline, where we’ve been spending Sundays since we came to Boston, where all 30 or so of us recite the prayer, Asian and Russian and Middle Eastern accents blending with American, our voices echoing in the quiet, blue-walled sanctuary that used to be an art gallery. At Brookline, we say “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
But at all four churches, we ask forgiveness. For what we’ve done; for what we’ve left undone. We ask humbly for our daily bread; we ask for God’s Kingdom to come on earth, His will to be done as it is in heaven. And at each church, and at thousands of others across the world, we say my favorite line: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”