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By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Aug 24 in Dan's Musings
“Have you ever done a blessing for an apartment building?”  The question from our friends who own such a facility here in Los Angeles, made me stop and think. Nope. I’ve done pastoral blessings over homes in Seattle and L.A. and Minneapolis. I once did a blessing over a restaurant in North Hollywood, but never exactly an apartment building.
“Would you be willing to?”  Yes, of course. So, Wednesday morning Anne and I showed up at the building owned by our friends. A small group of people had already gathered in the courtyard area, including the owners’ extended family and renters from 5 of the 8 units, who had received invitations. Some of the history of the neighborhood and the building was rehearsed and everyone introduced themselves. What a mix!  One couple has lived in that same building for 46 years. A young woman just moved in a month ago.  It was a wild array of people of all ages, ethnicities, marrieds, singles...and Lord only knows the varied backgrounds of faith represented.  Everyone seemed happy to be together, and in some cases, meeting their neighbors for the first time.
           
I explained that we would gather first at the front gate and then again in the inner courtyard.  I showed them the small vial of olive oil I had with me. Standing in morning sun between a small lemon tree and a young peach tree, I explained that the oil represented the fruit of the earth, God’s good gifts of earth, air, sky, water given to us. We walked over to the gate. I made the sign of the cross on the wrought iron and prayed. We prayed for a sense of welcome for all who entered that gate, for hospitality and warmth, for a palpable sense of God’s presence, for visitors to be greeted as friends.  Then I read the short liturgy we had practiced earlier:

We call upon Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
to save, shield, and surround
this house, this home
this day, this night
and every night.
Everyone present responded with “Amen.”

Then we moved back to the inner courtyard. I anointed the building with the sign of the cross again, and we prayed. We asked God’s blessing from roof to floor, from walls to ceilings, from end to end and for the foundation. We prayed against anything of darkness, in the name of Jesus, and asked for God’s Spirit alone to dwell in this place and keep it safe. We prayed for each unit number, #1 through #8. We prayed for the carport and the alley. And then again, I read:

We call upon Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
to save, shield, and surround
this house, this home
this day, this night
and every night.
And again, everyone present responded with “Amen.”
           
Such a simple thing. People and prayer. Prayer and people. After our short blessing, it seemed no one really wanted to leave. People chatted and visited, asked questions and shared stories. The truth is- we all long to know and to be known.  It’s true of our relationships with people. It’s true of our relationship with God.  I think God knew this from the beginning. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” says it all. God communing, living, “apartmenting” with his people. When we spend time with one another, we are simply reflecting that we are beings made in God’s image. And it’s good. Very, very good.
 
See you soon,
              Pastor Dan

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