“All Are Welcome In This Place”

Re-examining piety amidst pestilence by A. Morrison

Greetings to my St. Andrew’s Church Family,

This COVID 19 Pandemic has caused significant disruptions to our lives. Among these disruptions is the loss of our regular in-person public worship on Sundays. While we grieve these losses of our previous consistency, I think our current situation provides us an opportunity to renew our individual devotional lives in Christ. For me, this time has put a mirror to myself to re-examine my faith, especially some of the attitudes I’ve had to individual piety. I grew up in a non-denominational, evangelical context which placed an emphasis on one’s personal relationship to Christ. While I am grateful for how my parents raised me to place value on my faith, I do not think about prayer and spiritual discipline in the way I did before. Prayer then for me was about wish fulfillment, as though if I prayed “hard enough” I could make God my personal genie for whatever my heart desired. I also became disenchanted with prayer when it became a source for gossip in youth groups, or when it became a facade for someone to seem pious in public when they were otherwise quite the opposite in private. All of these experiences caused me to distance myself from my own individual prayers, except for in times when my circumstances felt dire. 

In recent years, I’ve felt a call to look again at the meaning of private prayer and devotion. Since becoming an Episcopalian in 2014, I’ve learned more about the Book of Common Prayer for individual use in the Anglican tradition, and the long arc of private prayer practices in the monastic tradition. I now see prayer differently as something which is not about making me “happy,” but as something which is ultimately about being gradually conformed into God’s self. As Rowan Williams says in Being Christian,  prayer is simply “letting Jesus pray in you… And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.” Prayer alone does not make us holy, but God has somehow ordained it as such to be one of the means that God’s grace gets to us. It is a strange and yet wondrous thing. 

In light of this reality, I invite you all to join me in re-examining the role that your own individual prayers and devotions play in your life. Perhaps this may be a time for you to encounter God’s peace and presence in a new way within your home, even as we await that beautiful day when we can all hopefully worship together in person at St. Andrew’s. One resource that may be helpful for you is to pray the Daily Office of the Church.  A link can be found on our website.  Simply click on the box that is labeled “Daily Prayer”.  You’ll be connected to a page that will lead you through Morning and Evening Prayer.  Another resource is to come join me and other St. Andrew’s parishioners on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm through Zoom videochat as we take a free online class together called Prayer and Worship in Our Homes. A link to this class can be found on our website on the “Online Bible Studies” page. In this course, we’ll be discussing everyday spiritual practices, praying with the saints, how to pray, and how to pray the Anglican rosary among other topics. Hope to see you there!

Aaron Morrison