A Holy Grapes Solo Worship Experience


Today’s garden is at Covenant Place, a independent living and retirement home for seniors on limited incomes. My mom lives here.

In the early hours this morning, I felt no motivation to get up and do my solo worship. It’s been a difficult few days. I’m feeling the effects of the solitude of living alone, and the feelings of sadness, grief, and hopelessness. I have to admit, I’ve been feeling and wondering “what’s the point?” the last few days.

This is what I’m feeling this morning as I struggle to find energy to do this project and solo worship service. As I’m gathering up my books, the grapes, my journal. I call my mom “I’m heading over. I’m not sure I can get out of the house, unless I head your way.”

My mom asks, “Can I join you?” I say “yes.”

A half hour later, I arrive and Mom is already in the garden, waiting for me. Wearing her mask and latex gloves. I let her look for and choose scripture passages, while I begin taking pictures.


There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.

~Romans 5:3-4, The Message Bible

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

~Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message Bible


It all feels so heavy. As I talk to people this week, my list of prayers continues to grow and get longer. I confess I let myself zone out a bit this past week, turning to light, meaningless tv shows to keep me company. I acknowledge that this isn’t the person I want to be, but almost all the conversations this week begin with something like “Life’s a bitch right now.” It’s hard, there’s a lot of sadness, and it’s a bit easier to just tune out a bit and not take it all in.

The sadness and depression led me to feel unproductive this week. There have been good things happening, but I’m holding on to the stories and experiences of the people who say to me that they are not doing okay.

No wonder, I’m not finding the energy and self-motivation.

So in order to get out this morning, and break out of this malaise, I decide not to go solo into worship. I call my mom and join her in the garden where she lives. When I arrive, she is ready and we are even met with another guest:

“It Can’t Be Carried Alone”

A response, excerpted from The Universal Christ: How A Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believed, by Richard Rohr

“In that moment, I was not sad about any one thing, but about everything…the sadness was focused not on one particular issue, but on all of them at once….it deeply helped to name all this suffering and sadness as the one sadness of God. And I learned I could not hold it alone, but it was a shared experience – which gave me great consolation.

I do believe that the only way out of deep sadness is to go with it and through it. Sometimes I wonder if this is what we mean when we life up the chalice of wine at the Eucharist and say, “Through him, with him, and in him.” I wonder if the only way to spiritually hold suffering – and not let it destroy us – is to recognize that we cannot do it alone.

When I try to heroically do it alone, I slip into distractions, denials, and pretending – and I do not learn suffering’s softening lessons. But when I can find a shared meaning for something, especially if it allows me to love God and others in the same action, God can get me through it. I begin to trust the ambiguous process of life.

When we carry our small suffering in solidarity with the one universal longing of all humanity, it helps keep us from self=pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together, and it is just as hard for everybody else.”


Oh Heavenly God, our prayers are many:

For those who are handling elder care of loved ones from a distance because of the pandemic, oh God, hear our prayers.

For friends and loved ones with cancer, heart issues, and other afflictions, oh God, hear our prayer.

For those we lose this week, oh God, hear our prayers.

And let us remember and continue the prayers for:

  • those within our communities facing surgeries and new diagnoses requiring medical treatments,
  • the children still separated from their parents at our borders,
  • our brothers and sisters experiencing incarceration, in need of medical attention and supplies,
  • new parents and new babies being born right now,
  • all those out of work, rethinking vocation and careers during these days,
  • the first responders, doctors, nurses, paramedics, working tirelessly on the front lines,
  • our religious and spiritual leaders and pastors, working to meet the spiritual needs of the congregation,
  • those struggling with mental health issues.

God, light and love of our world, we are not alone. We hold one another up and we know “we are all in this together.” We are held in your arms, and we hold one another in ours. As lone individuals it’s too much for us to bear, but as collective members of your community and your body, we persevere and continue on. Collectively, please give us the strength to ride out this storm. for we seek perseverance over despair. Help us find peace of mind in order to be present for one another.

In the name of Jesus – who chose to be born and live amidst us, to love us and to die for us – for these things and more we pray.


I have no wine or bread. All I have are these grapes. They haven’t been blessed by the pastors, or prayed over before communion. I cannot consecrate the grapes myself, but I am in God’s Garden, and all that is here, including the grapes, are holy.

I think about my beloved family and friends. I miss my pastors and my church, and the love that come with the practice of communion together. . May God’s blessings begin to illumine our hearts, cutting through the despair, and filling us with the hope we need to persevere.


A note: Holy Grapes, a solo worship service will continue throughout this quarantine period, rain or shine, in God’s Garden wherever that may be. If you live in the Chapel Hill/Durham area, and want me to show case your own garden during my weekly worship time, please message me. With peace and love…

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