Glory to God whose power in us can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation
to generation in the church and in Christ Jesus our Lord.
On July 17, in our cycle of Holy Women, Holy Men, we celebrate the life and ministry of William White, the first and fourth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
It is a good summer to remember him, since we just elected another Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry!
First elected in 1789, Bishop White faced some significant challenges. How can what was the Church of England find new life in the newly independent United States? How does one maintain the ancient faith of worshiping God the creator, Jesus, the redeemer and the sustaining Holy Spirit in a new time and a new place with new understandings? Ancient faith, new context.
We face similar questions in our own age. Our new Presiding Bishop will face this challenge. We need always to be asking these questions but it seems more urgent now, when things seem to change so rapidly. We know what the old looked like, it is harder to know what lies ahead. We mourn the fact that what lies ahead may not look at all like what has been.
One simple response is to try something you have not tried before. Something small but something that may open up new avenues to explore your faith. So, something simple, that's all I am offering in this brief essay. Something simple to live more deeply in the ancient faith in a modern age. Something that helps you take change by the hand so it does not grab you by the throat!
What might that be for you? Summer is a good time to try something new. Even as we participate in recreational activities in the summer season, we can make ourselves available for God's re-creation in our lives and our communities.
If you say Morning Prayer from the Prayer Book, try some contemplative prayer. If you do not have a practice of Prayer,
begin by offering thanksgiving, then praying for those you love and the life of the world. Ask for guidance in the particular circumstances of the day ahead. Say the Lord's Prayer. Make yourself available to God's re-creation.
I have a practice of walking prayer in the months of good weather. I begin a 4 mile walk simply saying thank you with each step I take. I then use the simple Morning Prayer in the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, which I have memorized (Book of Common Prayer, page 137). I often repeat several times to the rhythm of my feet, the verses from Psalm 51 which begin those prayers "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Always a good prayer with which to begin the day! As home is once again in sight, I say the closing prayer.
Use a new form of prayer - this is where the internet can be helpful. While this will never replace the actual gathering of human beings and the willingness to enter into prayer, service and formation together, it can support and enlarge our experience. One of the beauties of the internet is that it can expand our horizons and remind us that we are part of a much larger community of God's people. Its also great if you are on the road - download the podcasts and you are good to go! Take a look at some of these:
Come to the Cathedral on Wednesdays and walk with Tom Callard and crew to hand out sandwiches in the neighborhood.
Get a good suggestion from someone you know whose faith you admire. Have a conversation with that person about what informs, transforms him or her. Consider signing up for a daily email that ponders the mysteries of the faith:
Nothing new about praying, serving and learning. And these thoughts are obviously by no means exhaustive. But perhaps we can inch our way toward discovering new and deeper ways to experience and express these central activities of our faith.
We know that William White was a man of prayer and deep faith. It's the way he could have the courage to lead into a new age. It is an ancient pattern that we can draw on to discover what needs to be open for God's re-creation in our age. Root yourself intentionally, deeply in the faith, try something new for the sake of the Gospel. It is from that place that we will draw courage and inspiration to look forward in our churches and our lives.
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and
sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole
world see and know that things which were cast down are
being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their
perfection by him through whom all things were made,