Several years ago, my vocational journey took me into interim ministry. This is a specialized form of ordained ministry in which I devote my priestly and prophetic gifts and experience to aid congregations during times of transition between settled or permanent spiritual leaders. Faithful stewardship of these transitions is vital to the health of the congregation and to its future mission under new leadership.
As I have focused more intentionally on transition and the attendant change and transformation, I have become more conscious of the importance of prayer in helping us to be creative agents of the changes God is calling us to make instead of victims of the march of time. I don’t pretend to understand how prayer works in God’s administrative policy, but I do believe prayer matters. And I believe that prayer matters in the faithful stewardship of times of transition.
For example, the Collect of the Day for Proper 12:
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
And, the Collect of the Day for Proper 13:
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Both of those prayers presuppose the movement of the Church through change and transition and uncertain times. With God’s help, we can be agents of the changes God wants to see in our individual lives and in the life of our faith community.
The first Sunday service in my current appointment as Interim Dean of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver was July 10. In our lectionary, the Sunday closest to July 13 each year is always known as “Proper 10.” The Collect of the Day is a one-sentence prayer we pray near the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy and before the reading of Scripture. The Collect of the Day for Proper 10 is one of my favorite collects in the Book of Common Prayer.
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Perhaps I like it so much because it is a prayer for discernment. To discern is to divide, separate, or sort things out. In our ongoing spiritual journey, each of us is called to sort out God’s yearning for us and then ask God to supply the resources we need to make the decisions and live our lives in line with God’s hopes for us. I’ve asked the Saint John’s Cathedral Community to pray this prayer daily during this time of transition because we have important transition work to do together. Times of transition are opportunities for amazing, purposeful, creative change and we want to be sure those changes advance God’s reign. So, we pray for divine guidance.
The other prayer I’ve asked the Cathedral community to pray is this:
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a Dean for this Cathedral, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer helps us be mindful that there are members of our faith community who have been charged with the specific moving through a mutual process of discernment that will result in the calling of a new spiritual leader with whom they will enter a new era of mission and ministry. As we pray, we ask for divine guidance for these representatives of God’s people in this place.
So, whether you are trying to be a faithful steward of a time of transition in your life and the life of your household, the life of your organization, the life of your business, the life of your political party, or the life of your faith community, I invite you to be persistent in prayer. After all, the changes God is hoping to see are humanly impossible. Without God’s help, we cannot accomplish what God has in mind. There are plenty of things we can do on our own. The holy work that issues from our vocation as God’s Holy Church can only be accomplished with God’s help.
I’ll see you in Church!
P.S. If you have a copy of The Book of Common Prayer, take some time to look through it and notice how many prayers refer to transition and change. You'll be surprised!