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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: Praying What We Believe-11.6.23

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

I’m still glowing from the amazing Celebration of New Ministry that we held last Saturday, which put the bishop’s official blessing on my position as rector here at St. Peter’s. It’s informally called an installation, and I do feel firmly and fixedly installed in St. Peter’s community of faith. I’m also in good company with our three new boilers, which we’ve named Shadrach, Meshack and Abednigo.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can see the whole thing on our Facebook Page.

The liturgy came right out of our Book of Common Prayer (p 559) and is such a great example of how the Episcopal Church prays what it believes, and the beauty with which it does that. Because it is so handy, right there in the BCP and not tucked away in the sacristy somewhere, it is a good prayer to return to again and again because it so captures what our relationship is, priest to congregation. And beyond that, it captures who we are with God and for God.

One of the most moving parts for me was the induction, where parishioners brought up gifts that were symbolic of my role among you as rector. These included things like the bible, baptismal water, a beautiful new stole (!), the Book of Common Prayer and healing oil.

We added a few things unique to St. Peters: items from our Godly Play room, the Parish Profile, coffee and a welcome bag, and a wagon full of groceries for the food pantry.

With each item came the invitation, “be among us.”

Be among us ….

  • As one who proclaims the Word.

  • As a pastor and priest.

  • As a person of prayer and song.

  • As a healer and reconciler.

  • To break the Bread and bless the Cup.

  • As one who tends to our community’s hunger and thirst for basic needs and for ongoing justice.

This is such a beautiful description of what the church expects from its priests: to be people among. And it also describes an important quality of our Episcopal faith tradition – that it is relational and mutual. It’s a work that is shared by leaders and members, ordained and lay. We are all “among” one another. And Christ is too.

The prayer that brought me to tears came right after those gifts – and again the church prayed in these beautiful words what it believes its priests should be, touching and acknowledging what lies deep in the heart of the priest – certainly it lies at the heart of my priesthood.

… Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do.

Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word.

Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

In this prayer is not only the belief in but the dependence on a God who fills, enlightens and centers the divine self in heart and mind. It describes a God who works through human instruments, who saves through us, and who lives through us as Word. This God quickens devotion and heightens love and makes ready. This God draws the world to the blessed relationship with the divine self, what we call the life of the Kingdom of God.

While this prayer places it in the work of the priest, it really describes the relationship that all disciples are called to, however we may serve the God who is among us. One of the gifts of our liturgy is how it invites us to live into the words we say and practice them symbolically and practically.

That is why it’s so powerful and necessary in these isolating and self-centered times.

And after that prayer the people said, Amen.

And I do to.

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