We started out as students, barefoot and beaded,
but when we started to build community, we needed more than that. We found
what was needed in tradition, the traditions of the Jewish and Christian
people of God. The Lord’s Day – setting aside Sunday for the Lord – entered
our life fairly early, and became a mainstay in anchoring family and household
life in stable patterns. Community daily prayers, often done as evening
prayers, also helped. Celebrating the seasons of the Christian year further
enriched us, and sometimes set us apart. Try celebrating Advent, not Christmas,
in the weeks leading up to the feast of the Incarnation, and you will experience
going against the stream of our culture.
A less ceremonial, but essential, custom which
has woven together the lives of God’s people whenever they have experienced
being his people, is mutual care. We met together for support in small
groups, provided meals when babies were born, helped one another move (endlessly,
it seemed), and baked cakes for many, many weddings – sometimes two or
even three a weekend. And we prayed with each other and for each
other and over each other. And we sang an ever-increasing repertoire of
songs, many of our own composing. All of these things had been done by
others before us, and had worked for them. They worked for us also. We
became a people – a people who were noticeably different, set apart to
be dedicated to serving our God. And this identity made us able to resist,
at least in part, the powerful influences trying to pull us away from Jesus
and the way of life he calls us to live. Forming a culture as a people
of God helped us to counter the non-Christian culture we live in.
Gryniewicz is a senior woman leader in Word
of Life Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan]
As the first Thursday night prayer meetings grew
from 12 people in November of 1967 to hundreds over the following year
– many came from Michigan, Ohio, and even Canada! – we “regular” attendees
who lived in Ann Arbor felt the need to begin meeting on an additional
night of the week to have a chance to focus on our own spiritual growth
and worship of the Lord. A few of us also met together outside of
these prayer meetings to seek the Lord for what he wanted to do with us
I went into the U.S. Navy as my friends continued
these gatherings. One day on my ship, the captain sent word that I had
a ship-to-shore phone call. It’s the only time I saw anyone receive
such a call, and I thought as I went to answer it, “This must be something
big.” It was. People from the Ann Arbor prayer group were calling to let
me know that God was calling them to bind themselves together to him in
something called a “covenant,” and could I pray that we would understand
what it all means and respond to it.
My long distance call led to a long distance prayer,
and the prayer group was able to accept God’s invitation 40 years ago and
make our first public commitments as individuals joined together in community.
After a few years, I completed my time in the navy, returned to Ann Arbor
and was able to publicly affirm my own commitment to that same way of life.
God deals with us no matter where we are, as long as we love him and want
to please him – and he is never a long distance from us.