“What time should we be ready to go?” “The service starts at 5:30, so 5:00am should be fine.” The Cathedral of St Anthony of Padua in Dunkwa-on-Offin has been beginning each day with morning Eucharist for years. The service began as a way to serve the men and women of the parish who had to quickly be on their way to work. The combination of walking commuters and challenging roads led to the service beginning at this early hour.
“First thing in the morning”, the Bishop said, “they want to begin their day with worship, prayer, and Holy Communion.”
As a first-time guest to the Diocese, as a priest in this diocese, it was obvious how busy their days were already. Commute times almost as long as ours despite distances being small; pressures of family and work; challenges they met with grace and ingenuity. The idea of Communion this early in the morning, every morning, seemed ambitious. “We should at least wait until morning has arrived,” I thought to myself.
The service began, oscillating in the quiet morning air between the traditional English of the Prayer Book and the Twi responses and choruses that spilled out over the gathered congregation and through the open windows to let the neighbors of this parish know that morning has arrived and that God’s people have gathered to life their voices and hearts in praise. “The light of Christ”, they sang as the Gospel book was brought out and the reading began. Any remaining drowsiness or shadows were driven out as the clapping and harmony filled the chapel.
Hearing the Deacon as he exhorted us to trust that If God has given us a task, He will surely give us strength to accomplish it. Listening to the prayers of the people, full of expectation and zeal that crossed the language divide. All before 6:00am.
What a way to begin the day. Before the tasks of the day intrude and before the regrets of yesterday have fully formed in your mind to harass you, they have lifted their voices in prayer and praise, and have gathered at the Lord’s Table.
The rest of the day spread in many different directions, with each person returning to their homes, to their workplaces and to their responsibilities buoyed by the morning’s grace.
Our days spread in many of the same patterns, and the challenges we face in our parish are distinct but of a type with the challenges of our brothers and sisters in central Ghana. While 5:30am daily Eucharist is outside of our custom, beginning the morning with a blend of traditional prayers, scripture and your own unique dialect and dialogue in prayer can occur before our commute, before our daily tasks and before the sleep is even fully removed from our eyes. Perhaps, not only may you notice a difference, but maybe your neighbors and co-workers will be able to tell,(even if they cannot hear your shower singing), that you began your day with prayer and praise, first thing in the morning.