Tuesday night the Elizabeth River District in Virginia held prayer services for Praying Our Way Forward. I was at the site in Portsmouth, held at Monumental United Methodist. Toddler J was there, along with six-year-old boy, E.
As we celebrated communion, Toddler J freely scurried around the sanctuary, until she too participated in the ritual. She received with open palms a chunk of bread, and with no fear or hesitation, dipped it into the common cup.
We concluded the service by gathering in a circle, holding hands. Everyone was invited to share a prayer that was on their hearts. Around the circle people prayed for loved ones, the church, our Bishops, inclusiveness, and the Commission on the Way Forward. When it was six-year-old E’s turn, in a gentle voice, he prayed, “God, I love you.”
His prayer brought tears to my eyes.
This, I was reminded, is why we are praying for our church. We are praying for a church where a two-year-old may roam freely during worship, and a six-year-old can voice his prayers. We are praying for a church who made a promise and commitment during the sacrament of baptism to nurture these children in their faith. We are praying for a church whose open Table welcomes all people, wherever they are in the journey of faith, into this grace-filled community.
It is a church that recognizes that in our midst are differences, yet we hold to the One that binds us together. This is my church, whose great cloud of witnesses can attest that through the divisions, we can unite. We have, and I have hope that we will.
But, first we must humble ourselves and pray.
I once heard someone say, “If church people do not pray for the church, than who will?” The very legacy of the Wesley brothers, Francis Asbury, and other early Methodists is one built not on debate over polity or cultural norms, but on prayer. Our church was first a movement fueled by prayer, discerning the call placed upon them by God, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that we must do the same today. The future of the church depends on it.