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The Gift of our Common Prayer and Call to Unity

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on March 09, 2022

The violence and aggression on Russia’s part towards the people of Ukraine has been much on my heart and mind and in my prayers, as it has for many of you. One of the tragedies of recent years is a sense that what divides us is sometimes more obvious than what unites us. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a newcomer to our community and remembered during our discussion of the gift of our common prayer. 
 
The Book of Common Prayer almost always offers better words than I can write. As we knelt in penitence last Ash Wednesday and sang the Great Litany in procession on Sunday, I was reminded of the power of our turning together towards God. Repentance and specifically the season of Lent give us an opportunity to remind ourselves once again of our longing and desire to be at one with one another and the whole human family. That of course means we must name the places of real division and separation that we experience in ourselves, our intimate relationships, our community, and the world.
 
One important symbol of church unity is the role of our bishops, both in our diocese and across the world. They remind us that we are always more than our parish community. Bishop Reed has written a thoughtful and compelling pastoral letter which I encourage you to read (see below). It speaks powerfully to our need to hold the concerns of the world front and center. He names our call to witness to injustice and fearmongering, in Eastern Europe or within our own borders. 
 
Love and welcome must reside alongside our commitment to peace and justice. We must speak out when we see evil, and we must be a witness in the world to the freeing power of Christ’s love. If we feel overwhelmed and unable to respond to so many concerns, intentional prayer is always a good starting place. 
 
This Lent I’m using these three prayers daily to ground myself in the God who is constantly present in the reconciling and redemption of our broken world. I trust that, through our prayer, our actions become more discernible, and we can be the hands and feet of God’s love in the world. I invite you to read Bishop Reed’s letter and to pray these prayers with me. Two are from the Book of Common Prayer, and the Prayer for Ukraine was written by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Blessings to you in the holy season of Lent. May our disciplines lead us every more closely to the joy of Easter Day.
 
For Peace Among the Nations
Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
In Times of Conflict
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
A Prayer for Ukraine, by Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Stephen Cottrell
God of peace and justice,
We pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for the peace and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,
That your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war and peace,
For wisdom, discernment and compassion
To guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for your precious children, at risk and in fear,
That you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Amen. 

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