Thursday, October 4, 2018

A prayer for Regional Ministry in upstate New York

The American Baptist Churches of New York State has its Regional Biennial gathering every other year.  It is an opportunity to welcome as many of our 284 churches as possible to convene in one place for a weekend.

As part of the Friday evening worship, I was invited to offer a "pastoral prayer" for the Region and this gathering.  Working with the theme of "Finding Hope in Brokenness" (Isaiah 58:8a), I offered these words for the evening prayer:

O God, we gather this weekend as a family of faith, joined together in prayer and praise, ministry and mission. We give all glory and honor to you as Maker of Heaven and Earth, Redeemer of Humanity and Creation and the Breath of all Creation and the sometimes gentle and other times gale force Wind summoning us to be your people called “Church”. We are pilgrims together on a journey, following the Gospel way of Jesus Christ.

We pause here for two days for fellowship and being together. We come from busy schedules of work and ministry, the rigors of our family and congregational needs not necessarily set aside from our minds.

 Yet, we are here, ready to be challenged, ready to be affirmed, ready to encounter the wide ranging family of God called ABC/NYS. We hear the ancient prophet Isaiah, summoning people to greater belief and more holy action. We know that these words are not just for then, but surely, we need to hear them anew in the here and now. We are in the midst of difficult times, whether in our local churches or in the wider communities we are located within and called to serve. Sometimes, our hope and trust made known in Jesus will falter as we worry about lack or resist the Spirit’s prompting to risk. We let the four walls of the church building sometimes be the limits of our sense of what ministry we are called to undertake.

Challenge us, O God, to see the abundance You give to us, even when our churches worry about attendance, buildings and cash flow. Challenge us, O God, to find our voices to testify and speak truth to power. Challenge us, O God, to lift up the many who are kept down in this world through circumstances and systems that separate us and classify people as “us” and “them” in so many, many ways.

Bless the work of this weekend’s meetings. May we hear the words of Isaiah resound in workshops and seminars, business meetings and plenary worship sessions. May we go and tell this good word of American Baptists united together in ministry across upstate New York, living in the power of the Spirit, by the New Life given to us by Jesus, to the glory and honor of God almighty. AMEN.

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