Supported by Prayer
I have been traveling a great deal in these last weeks, including to two consecrations, a diocesan visitation, and a retreat for Diocesan Jubilee Officers. Everywhere I go people ask me the same question: “How are you?” They want to know something of my thoughts and feelings during these very difficult days in the life of our church, and ask the question in a very caring way. “How are you?” I usually say that I am just fine because I don’t wish to burden my caring questioner with more than they may really wish to hear.
Sometimes I am asked the same question but in a rather different way that is an invitation. “Please tell us how you are so we can pray for you intelligently.” Prayer is the life blood of the church. It is the work of the Spirit within us. It is the dynamic energy that ones us to God and one another.
And, the more we know the mind and heart of the person we pray for, the more fully we can bring them before the Lord. With this in mind, let me share with you some of the things that move most deeply within me in order to inform your prayer.
Please pray that I may be given a compassionate and undefended heart that can receive both the hope and the pain of this present time.
Please pray that I can withstand without fear or rancor the various forces that seem so intent on undermining the life and witness of the Episcopal Church. As in any institution made up of fallible and finite human beings, sin and grace are constantly at work and Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians:11-14)
Please pray that I may be faithful to the mystery of the Cross as it presents itself at the heart of my life. Here I think of some words of Father Richard M. Benson, the founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. In a colloquy with the Risen Christ, which is a prayer in the form of an informal conversation – friend speaking to friend – Father Benson asks: “Teach me the law of the holy cross, the mystery of our redemption.” To this Christ replies: “My child, you must learn this mystery experimentally. Take up your cross and it will teach you all things.”
What becomes ever clearer to me, both in my own person as Frank Griswold and in my role as your Presiding Bishop, is that any authentic call to ministry takes us to the cross and obliges us – in very specific ways woven into the circumstances of our lives – to endure sufferings and to complete “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24.) This is not a question of something we seek but how things actually play out in our lives and conform us, over time, to the image of Christ.
Pray that I, and indeed each of us, may take on the burdens of others and be given the ability to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) I also take seriously Paul’s words about becoming all things to all people, not out of some desire to be civil or superficially accommodating but because I believe that is where Christ most deeply calls me to stand so that I may inhabit the reality of the other.
Please pray that we as a church may become a community of reconciliation, not just for ourselves but for the sake of our world. Pray that we may be a sign of hope and a challenge to a world in which self-interest, suspicion and hostility order our thinking and our actions as individuals, as ecclesial bodies and as nations.
Please pray that the Spirit of truth will carry us beyond the realm of logic and of agreement and disagreement into that deeper place of love. Love does not always alter external circumstances or “fix” things, but instead takes us to a place where we can stand together and be enfolded by the arms of God’s boundless and fierce compassion.
I am filled with gratitude for so many of you across the church and beyond who so generously support me with their prayers. Please know that as you pray for me I pray for you as well.