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Epiphanies in Prayer – III – An Openness to Learn

“The people in darkness have seen a great light…” –Isaiah 9:2a

So far so good. I think. Monday morning can be a time of reflection on the worship service past while looking forward to the coming Sunday. I have been receiving, at least so far, a positive response to focusing on prayer through Epiphany. I decided to work with what was already familiar. As I mentioned yesterday, Jim Kenney had introduced the candle table before my arrival, and it has become an integral part of worship. Every Sunday there are at least ten candles flickering at the table by the time the choir enters, and even more are lit both during and after worship. Clearly lighting a candle is something that resonates with many people in the congregation. It is a form of prayer that you are already doing, you may not realize it for what it is.

Yet it wasn’t always that way. I’ve said before that mainline Protestant churches aren’t really that comfortable with prayer. The night before, I had a conversation with my Dad, and it came up that my grandmother, and many of her generation, would have been horrified at my sermon and the use of candles with prayer. Why? Because that’s something that Roman Catholics did. I’ve come to the realization that my grandmother, who I loved very much, had some very deep-seated prejudices. Even the church that I served in Cornwall was conflicted about placing a brass cross on the communion table because it was “too Popish.” This isn’t ancient history, this is within my own lifetime. These are genuine barriers that prevent us from growing in faith.

I would like to think we live in a day and age where we can learn from the best of what other cultures and other faith traditions have to offer. One thing that Roman Catholics do tend to be better at is a regular practice of personal prayer. As Cistercian monk Thomas Merton once pointed out in his pioneering work in Christian-Buddhist dialogue, the idea is not to become the other faith, but to learn from the other tradition that will help us be better in ours. My hope of exploring candles or other means and methods of prayer is not so that we become Roman Catholic, for example, but rather how does it help us deepen our own faith, and what that might look like in our particular place in the United Church of Canada.

Yours in Christ,

John

 

Upcoming Events

  • Shakespeare: Henry IV
    • Shakespeare Returns to St. Matthew’s. Wayne Valleau is leading a class on Henry IV, running Mondays at 10:00am until February 20th.
    • Wayne is particularly adept at drawing themes out of Shakespeare, and connecting his plays with other parts of history and mythology into his works.
  • Annual Reports!
    • With the beginning of the year comes our preparation for our Annual Congregational Meeting. The date for the meeting remains to be formally decided, but in preparation for that is a reminder to everyone that we are now starting to receive reports and narratives for our yearly compilation. Please submit your reports to Shaundra Carvey at darby-shaundra@telus.net
  • Congregational Membership Classes
    • If you or someone you know would like to formalize membership with St. Matthew’s, I am hoping to run a membership class in the next few months. If you are interested, please email me, call me at the church, or speak with me directly on Sunday mornings.

Church Office Hours

  • This week, due to a family emergency, Wendy’s regular office hours are up in the air. There will be someone in the office for most of this week, as we have someone looking after the phones.
  • My regular office hours during the day are Sunday through Thursdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Pastoral care visits and community meetings sometimes require that I be out of the office from time to time during those hours.

 

 

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