Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey,
"Do to others as you would have them do to you..."
We are observing the octave of All Saints. It began on October 31, All Hallows Eve (Hallowe'en), continued through November 1, All Saints Day, November 2, All Souls Day, and will come to a completion on November 6, All Saints Sunday. All Saints is an opportunity for us to acknowledge those heroes of the faith - the Saints known and unknown - some of whom now rest from their labors, others of whom continue their work in God's vineyard.
To me, the most saintly people are those who have exhibited profound love of God and God's people in the midst of trying circumstances. I think of St. Francis of Assisi, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Martyrs of Sudan and Uganda, Constance and her companions - the martyrs of Memphis. These persons, and countless others, embodied the words of Jesus,
"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
As we enter this week, and look toward Tuesday, when Americans will go to the polls to elect a new President, as well as to determine the make-up of both Houses of Congress, I can't help reflecting on the importance of deep love and faith. Our nation is deeply divided. People have passionate feelings about the state of this country and about who should lead it. On November 9, nearly half of American's citizens are going to be disappointed at the election results - some bitterly disappointed.
As Christians, how will we respond?
There has been tremendous anxiety and acrimony among us, even as church people. What will we do with that next Wednesday? My hope and prayer is that we will be the people God has called us to be - the Church - reconcilers and healers in our communities and in the world.
In an Outline of the Faith - commonly called The Catechism
- the question is asked:
What is the mission of the Church?
The answer given is:
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
(Book of Common Prayer, p 855)
You and I are the Church, the body of Christ. The mission of the Church as stated in the Book of Common Prayer, the mission and ministry of reconciliation, is our mission. More important, the mission and ministry of reconciliation and healing is God's mission - a mission into which God has called us.
Several of our congregations are planning services of healing for the nation on Election Day and on Wednesday, November 9. I strongly encourage this. I call upon all Episcopalians in the Diocese of New Jersey to join in this prayer for our nation and its healing next Wednesday and to pray for those who are elected, whether they received your vote or not. Most important, pray for your neighbors, especially those who are feeling frightened and disappointed about the election's outcome.
Jesus said, "The first commandment is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment
greater than these."
Blessings and peace in Christ,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes, D. D.
Bishop of New Jersey
Prayer for an Election (BCP p. 822)
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of this community) in the election of officials and representatives;
that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for National Life (BCP p. 820)
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Social Justice (BCP p. 823)
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.