I sat quietly for about five minutes.
Soaking in the atmosphere.
Feeling where I was.
I arrived just as the chapel sevice was ending. In the hallway, outside the sanctuary, I met two young people with intellectual disabilities. The young woman recognized me from having met a few years ago and we chatted. She introduced me to a shy young man who told me his name in a voice stitched with velvet. We talked briefly. They looked very much at peace, very much like they had just left worship. I said my farewells and entered in to where I would be presenting for the day.
I've presented in this room many times over the years and it's one of my favourite places to be. It's a beautiful room, it has a lovely mural on the back wall and a huge window overlooking a frozen pond. After being greeted and given what I needed to set up, I was left alone for a few minutes to gather my thoughts. Sitting in a room still filled with the spirit of worship, still scented with prayers that lingered, I felt a kind of wonder. Being here many times before and worshiping with people with intellectual disabilities, has left an indelible mark on me. Each time I enter I know I will leave with new memories and the room will mean something more, yet something different the next time I come in.
But this is the first time I was to teach immediately following a service of worship. This is the first time I was to teach just after having greeted people with disabilities whose prayers had been prayed in that space. I wondered what they prayed for. I wondered what they had said, with bowed heads, to their God. I wondered if their prayers, which are echos of the hopes of hearts, placed responsibilities on my shoulders. I was there to train those who provided care. I was there to challenge and change, to inform and inspire, to teach and be taught.
I was alone.
Yet I felt surrounded by the quiet voices of prayer.
Never has a room better prepared me for what was to happen next.