One of the most under-utilized ministries at St. Michael’s is our prayer partner ministry. As a congregation we are still too uptight about such prayer. We need to get better about “letting go and letting God.” The following sharing is well put by one of our prayer partners:
One of the ministries offered at St. Michael’s is that of healing prayer during communion at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.services. Prayer partners are stationed to the left of the altar against the back wall each Sunday and are there to pray with anyone who has a concern.
This ministry is very important to me. Why? One reason is because of this passage in James 5: 14-15: “Is there anyone who is sick? He should send for the church elders, who will pray for him and rub olive oil on him in the name of the Lord. This prayer made in faith will heal the sick person.” (Good News Bible) I believe we are called on to pray for one another.
I have heard people say that such prayer during the service is too public and they are too self-conscious. My answer to that objection is that almost everyone else is concentrating on receiving communion, corralling kids back and forth, or thinking their own thoughts. Prayers are confidential; therefore it is the responsibility of the congregation not to notice who comes for prayers. In James 4:2 we are reminded that, like any good parent, God wants us to ask for what we need: “You have not because you ask not.” You can come to the station and ask!
Personally having others pray for my healing and peace of mind has helped me through many of life’s crises. Please consider taking advantage of this opportunity and let God have another way of working in our lives as a parish community.
– The Rev. Robby Vickery
In his daily meditation Richard Rohr wrote Monday:
The “Last Supper” of Jesus was a Passover meal of deep table fellowship–with Jesus and his closest followers–that evolved into the formatted, ritualized meal of bread and wine that many of us enjoy today. The first disciples soon came to understand it as a way of gathering, as the way to define their reality and their relationship to one another and with Jesus. It became, already in the first centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection, a powerful symbol of unity, of giving and sharing, of allowing the breaking of self and giving the self over for the world. It was the secret ritual by which the community defined itself and held itself together in its essential message of solidarity with both suffering and resurrection.
Yes, we are to recognize Jesus himself in the Eucharist, but we are also to recognize the living Body of Christ, too (1Cor. 11:29). There is no true Eucharist without a living assembly… . The Eucharist was meant to be a sacrificial meal in which the Body recognized itself, defined itself, and declared its social identity and its central purpose, which was to continue the life and body of Jesus in space and time, to live in a new world order of true sisterhood and brotherhood (meal), and of redemptive suffering and solidarity (sacrifice). It is not just Jesus’ own sacrifice that we are recalling, but also our agreement to participate in the same! [Bold italics mine] It is not just the human incarnation in Jesus that we are remembering, but that this mystery of incarnation is continued in space, time and the physical universe itself (e.g., ordinary elements of bread and wine).
Sometimes fellow Christians in other denominations have asked me how come the Episcopal Church does not have altar calls. I tell them that we do, every Sunday, in the Eucharist. In the act of partaking of the bread and wine we recommit ourselves, our souls and bodies, to Jesus and to all in whom he dwells, to participate in his mission of bringing God’s kingdom and to participate in the sacrifice (think cross) that requires.
– The Rev. Robby Vickery
I am always struck by the number of people who tell me that I haven’t seen them in church for a long time because they have gone through a really tough time in their life (e.g. death of a loved one, divorce, illness, job loss), but now things are better, and they are back. This seems to be just backwards. It is the really tough times when we most need to be seeking God. I am reminded that I heard a colleague of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa say that the archbishop prays one hour each day, except on the days that he is really busy. On those days he prays two hours.
Remember, one of the primary symbols for God, used by Jesus, is “Abba.” Abba is Aramaic (the everyday language of Jesus and his contemporaries; Hebrew was for formal occasions) not for “father,” but for “daddy” or even “dada,” the name a small child would use for “father.” In other words, Jesus teaches us that God is a parent and wants us to trust in God’s care like a small child trusts in the child’s parent.
As a parent I want my children to share the good times with me, but I particularly want to be there for them in the hard times. Jesus asked (and I’m paraphrasing), “Hey, if you who are quite flawed parents give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Daddy give if you seek him?”
So, seek God, the parent who loves you better than you love yourself. Seek God in your personal prayers and in your personal scripture reading. But do not neglect to seek God in God’s community, the church. We cannot do it by ourselves. There are times when we have to receive an epiphany/revelation from God through our interaction with other people of faith. The insight/comfort/challenge might come from a line in a hymn, from the burn of port wine going down one’s throat, from putting sheets on a mattress for the homeless during an Interfaith Hospitality Network week, from putting a hard earned check in the offering plate, from an casual remark at coffee hour, or from inviting someone to join you at church. Our heavenly Parent is just waiting for an opening to break into our lives.
– The Rev. Robby Vickery
Thoughts from our Vestry by Lee Crawford …
One of our most important ministries at St. Michael‘s is to become a more “inviting church.”The core idea is that we look for opportunities to invite others to share our wonderful St. Michael‘s family - and then we act on those opportunities when we see them.
In 2013, we participated in “Back to Church Sunday,” when we invited friends and family to come to church with us on a designated Sunday. We will participate again in that program this year, though we are now calling it “Invitation Sunday” throughout the Diocese of Texas. Mark your calendars: Invitation Sunday isSeptember 21.
Invitation Sunday is an easy and terrific way to do something nice for people you care about. You may have heard Cameron Spoor‘s lovely sermon this past Sunday about the power of invitation to create trust between people, strengthen bonds of friendship, and promote a sense of community. The “Good News”of Cameron‘s message is twofold: (1) that our invitation will be well received whether it is accepted or not; and (2) that we grow spiritually just by reaching out in faith to make the invitation.
We‘ll have more to say about Invitation Sunday in the coming weeks leading up to September 21. For now, please mark the date and think about whom you‘d like to invite. Special Bonus Offer: If you‘d like to help out with our special greeter, hospitality, or follow-up ministries on Invitation Sunday, please contact Ann Harwood, Kirstie Cowan, or Lee Crawford.
Thoughts from our Youth Minister …
It had been a long day. Earlier that morning all the youth on the Houston Mission Trip had gathered early to pack and organize the van, before attending the 11 am service. We made it to the north side of Houston just in time for our 5 pm check-in at our housing site. Everyone quickly worked together and before long all the vehicles were unloaded, youth were setting up their bunks and beginning to get ready for the evening. Then there was orientation, dinner, and a guided prayer tour of the city. It was suddenly after 9 pmand we had not even begun our devotional, let alone done compline. In an attempt to reinvigorate the youth, we planned to do Bible Study in McDonald’s and enjoy ice cream afterward.
Just outside the restaurant we were approached by a father and son looking for assistance, and the youth group bought that pair a meal. Just as our group began debriefing the day and talking about group goals and expectations, another patron at the restaurant approached one of our leaders. He explained that the three of them had seen what we had done for the father and son and would like to buy our food. We thanked them and accepted their generosity, but told them we had to first finish our Bible Study. Their group needed to leave, but on their way out they stopped at our tables and handed Andy Hines some money, a $100 bill. We spent $12 dollars on ice cream and the youth elected to spend the remaining $88 on toys, games, art supplies, and balls for the day care we would volunteer with each afternoon.
As summer comes to an end and I reflect on all that the youth have done, (Service Camp, two mission trips, several day-long activities), it is easy to focus on the logistics of each event. Were there enough sponsors? Did I spend my budget wisely? Did I serve enough youth? I recently re-read a talk one youth had written about prayer and what it means to him. In talking with him we began discussing what it was like when he stopped searching for what he described as a “big God moment,” but instead realized God had always been there, supporting him all along in every decision he had made. Yes, some may say thatSunday night at McDonald’s was a “lightning bolt” moment, but as I sat with our youth and listened to their reaction and discussion that night about what had just happened, I realized something. While that event might have been the first “God sighting” moment for some of our youth, they were all beginning to understand something we all need to remember– God is always there, supporting us and guiding us down the path that we are called to follow.
– Mary Oleson Conkling
The picture is of the building where I attended the longest church service of my life. Just a few minutes before I took this picture it had been jammed with over 150 people, even filling the center aisle. There were over 40 people standing outside looking in through the windows. Between 9:00 am and 1:20 pm (yes, that’s 4.3 hours) we:
- Dedicated the church building
- Heard the Rev. Tom Day of League City, Texas preach a sermon that was translated sentence by sentence into Chichewa
- Confirmed 10 people
- Married one couple
- Commissioned four 20-somethings as diocesan youth ministry officers
- Heard the bishop teach
- Had eucharist
- Presented gifts to the bishop, including a 50-pound bag of milled maize (corn) and a LIVE goat. I would love to see the reaction if we gave our next visiting bishop a live goat.
Two things stand out from the service:
- The earnestness of the people. They were worshiping because they expected God to make a difference in their lives.
- The singing by the people. There were no musical instruments to accompany the congregation, just a cheap sound system, but they sang out with enthusiasm and joy.
Lord, grant that we at St. Michael’s may worship with such faith and sing with such joy as our brothers and sisters at St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, Chilimba Parish, Namadzi, Malawi. Amen.
– The Rev. Robby Vickery