Fuller community gathers for a time of worship, film, and music on inauguration eve
Worship. Unconventional. Heartfelt. That's how the Praying the Hours event on November 5, 2013, inauguration eve, can be described.
It was a time of reflection, and worship, as the community of Fuller was gathered not only in celebration of its new president, but also in welcome of God's presence, in contemplation of his work, and in recognition of each other.
The program began at 7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, the site where the inauguration of Dr. Mark Labberton would take place, as was the case with presidents of Fuller Seminary before him. This night, however, was exceptionally unique, where contemporary art met worship.
The audience was called to attention with the quiet, but firm sound of a lone cello playing in the darkened sanctuary. The Fuller Vocal Ensemble, led by the Brehm Center's Director Fred Davison, sang a chant from the ninth century titled "Veni Creator Spiritus." The music flowed over the hushed crowd that filled the pews of First UMC, and slowly transitioned into traditional Taize song, "Wait on the Lord.
Between refrains, members of the Fuller community -- students, alumni, staff, faculty, and administrators -- read from scripture, recited contemporary poems, and spoke prayers both ancient and new in an unconventional liturgy that intermingled throughout the service.
"Come Holy Ghost. In our hearts take up our rest," read student Avril Speaks.
"We pray for God to be here," said Gideon Strauss, executive director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership.
The program highlighted the Hour of None, which according to the ancient tradition of fixed-hour prayer is the melancholy hour. The melancholy of None was demonstrated through the liturgy and screening of "The Prayer of the Mournful Songwriter," a short film from the Praying the Hours film project directed by Fuller's Lead Storyteller, Senior Editor, and Artist in Residence Lauralee Farrer, who orchestrated the event. Peppered throughout the program and film were moments of beauty, hope, and renewal, which also characterize the None hour.
Following the film, special guests Aaron Paul Ballard and the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers led the community in rousing renditions of "I'll Fly Away" and "I Saw the Light."
The event concluded with a special surprise for Dr. Labberton: As hundreds of Fuller's family rose to stand in the sanctuary, Farrer read over the Labbertons the same benediction that he always used to speak over his congregation at his former church.
"We speak on behalf of Fuller's students, alumni, faculty, administrators, staff, trustees, donors, friends, and guests as we return a blessing over our new pastoral president and his wife Janet. We are here, we are together and we have come to say we are with you," Farrer said. "Now Mark and Janet Labberton, to God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond anything that we can ask or even imagine according to the power that is at work within us, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus and in Fuller Seminary and in all of us both now and forevermore."