An Order for Compline by Hannah Field

The beautiful library of the rectory of St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s church in Allston was lit warmly with candles. The coffee table was covered with markers, crayons, and watercolor paint. Around twenty young adults, many of them current and former Life Together fellows, gathered in an oval shape around the room, full of roasted sweet potatoes and tahini sauce and kale salad.

Life Together alumna Jamie Shore had gathered us together in this sacred space for a queer, embodied version of the traditional Episcopal end-of-day prayers, or Compline, that she created. The service was full of affirming prayers both spoken and embodied, poems, and time for crafting. Instead of a passage from the Gospel, the scripture was the story behind the queer anthem “I Know a Place” by the band MUNA.

Episcopal Compline prayers are some of my most favorite – for me they are so deeply intertwined with being held in community, with the peaceful feeling at the end of a long day, with rest. Rest and community feel beautifully radical under the system of capitalism, and I am so grateful the Episcopal church has a liturgy that celebrates them, while at the same time uplifting those who cannot rest: Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

In adding to and transforming Compline, Jamie not only reminded us of the sacredness of rest and community – she reminded us of the sacredness of bodies. Of all bodies, especially bodies that are oppressed – Black and Brown bodies, queer bodies, fat bodies, disabled bodies, bodies deemed culturally ugly. Under white supremacy – from which stems so many other forms of oppression – this theology is vital.

To be there that night among friends and my partner, to speak the words that have been so deeply meaningful and sacred to me since I was a kid, only transformed to be even more liberatory, even more oriented toward justice… I felt a deep well of gratitude to be in this place, in this program, with these beautiful bodies and souls. To get to live in intentional community, where we get to work toward a more liberatory way of living, where we get to encourage each other to rest, and to care for one another and ourselves.

One of the closing Compline prayers that night was “A Prayer for Wanderers” from Queer Theology. It begins by saying, Holy One of the seekers and dreamers, the disaffected and disillusioned, the worn out and the burnt out, the rejected and the leavers… we ask for blessings as we travel, as we doubt, as we meander. I thought of my dear friend and co-Emmaus fellow Melee, who often says that Life Together has opened more questions for them than it has provided answers. I thought of how this program so often invites us into sacred doubt, toward messiness and imperfection. This, I have come to believe, is where God is. Just as she is there as we take care of ourselves through rest, she is there in our doubt, in our sorrow, in our ugliness, in our bodies.

As I wander from this community in a few months, I want to hold onto the reminder from Jamie’s Compline liturgy: that especially in the times when we feel unworthy, unproductive, unattractive, and uncertain, the Holy One is with us, keeping watch.