Really, Prayers Of The People
by Greg Syler on January 28, 2015
It happens just often enough to remind me of the power of prayer, that moment when in the course of a Sunday liturgy someone or even a few people give voice to real, heartfelt, genuine prayer. Just the other week, in fact, the husband of a woman who has been going through a rough patch spoke up, told the congregation what was on his heart, and offered his words to the God of mercy. It was a wonderful, simple, beautiful, indeed, holy moment.
But it doesn’t happen regularly, I’m afraid. I’m even more ashamed to admit that, on too many occasions, on too many Sunday mornings, that moment in the liturgy called “Prayers of the People” feels a bit like slogging through a shopping list. And that’s how I experience it. It’s no small leap to suggest, grimly, how those gathered must also feel!
This isn’t so much a post with an answer but, rather, a search and a question. When I was a curate, now ten years ago, my rector gave me the task of trying to find a way to make the Prayers of the People much more prayerful, interactive, holy, and real. We tried a few things, some of which worked decently, some of which completely flopped, but ever since I’ve been in search of an answer, a method, a way to really pray, and pray corporately.
It seems that that was the hope of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, at least in Rite II. In the introductory text (BCP, p.383) as well as the unmistakable fact that they gave six forms for prayers, the understanding seems to be that the People of God would, at that point in worship, really coalesce as a praying community, offering intercession and thanksgiving to God, not merely following rote language and rites.
To do so, and do it well, obviously involves raising up the right people with the right kind of spirit. In my own experience, when I’ve attended to relationships and worked to develop the human capacity to practice honest-to-God prayer, corporately, those have been the moments when real prayer really emerges. Here in Valley Lee, Maryland, I’ve been thinking that it’s time to put out a call for people in our community who have a heart for prayer, and who practice daily prayer, to come forward and begin to work with me on cultivating this spiritual practice more intentionally. That is to say, it’s time to stop thinking about this as a matter of course – like organizing a schedule – and start thinking about it as a spiritual charism.
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Christian Formation, Worship
Going Cold Turkey
by Richelle Thompson on January 27, 2015
Is your congregation ready to quit smoking? Eating badly? Overspending?
Is the church ready to stop being a club instead of a mission station? Is it willing to embrace newcomers from all stations of life? To engage in worship and ministry that is Spirit-filled, not one designed to fulfill personal needs?
When it comes to changing our selves, one option is to go cold turkey. Stop smoking completely. Adopt a strict diet or a frugal budget.
With our churches, we often look at other, slower ways of change management. I’m a fan of building support, seeking collaboration, offering rationales, listening to feedback. But sometimes we need to pull off the Bandaid. When it comes to really bad habits, we might need to go cold turkey.
The challenge is to have leadership astute enough to realize what issues need radical intervention – and to have the strength to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.
An Uncomfortable Home?
by Jeremiah Sierra on January 26, 2015
At the small Episcopal church in San Antonio where I grew up, everyone knew me and I knew everyone. I felt completely at home every Sunday. That experience of being completely accepted and welcomed is part of the reason I am still part of the Episcopal Church.
Yet, I am occasionally reminded that church isn’t always supposed to be a comfortable place. At panel discussion during last week's Trinity Institute conference, the Rev. Amy Butler, Senior Minister of Riverside Church, reminded attendees that church should not be comfortable. Our churches should be “communities of conversion,” she said, not places that simply confirm our beliefs and biases.
This was one of several conversations I was a part of this past week about race and economic inequality. In these conversations I’ve been reminded again and again how segregated our churches are, not only in terms of race but also economics and politics.
It’s not hard to see how this has happened. We all feel more at comfortable in a homogenous church. It’s easier. Spending hours every week with strangers and people with vastly different experiences can be exhausting.
How do we reconcile the uncomfortable truths of the Gospel, its call to love and serve and be in communion with those who are different from ourselves, with our desire to feel at ease in our own community?
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Diversity, Prayer & Reflection
Me And My Engineers: A Rector’s Perspective On Selecting A Senior Warden.
by Anna Olson on January 23, 2015
I am so not an engineer. I’ve never been a huge devotee of personality typing, but even I can see that whatever personality types make good engineers must be extremely different from my own. We see things differently, approach problems differently, and even evaluate outcomes differently.
Greater Los Angeles is full of engineers, and my vestry reflects this abundance. My last two senior wardens, as well as the clerk of the vestry have been engineers. It’s been awesome. Their gifts of organization, project management skills, meticulous spreadsheets, and focus on problem solving have helped to pin me down to earth, and to turn creative speculation into real projects.
Earlier in my ministry, I might have felt threatened by the sorts of piercing questions engineers tend to ask. How and when exactly will this get done? What will it cost? What tools do we need? How will we know when it’s finished? I might have rolled my eyes after the meeting, sighing over the joy-killing realism, the lack of room for rushing wind and fiery spirit.
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Vital Practices Digest: Vestries: Start The Year Strong
by Brendon Hunter on January 22, 2015
Vestries: Start Strong in 2015
Are you interested in practical, spiritually grounded resources for your congregation? Consider a free subscription to ECF Vital Practices
: A collection of articles, tools, and resources by and for congregational leaders. With a subscription, you’ll receive 12 issues of Vestry Papers
as well as the monthly Vital Practices Digest
delivered to your inbox.
In this month’s Digest
, we’re offering 5 ways to help your newly forming vestry get off to a strong start, with the 5th being a calendar template to assist you in setting up your year round stewardship program.
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