Our only Father, humble us Mary-like
before the cross of your Son, our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, so that
through the Spirit we may be joined in the one body, the Church,
thus becoming your mighty prayer for the world. Gracious God, whose
grace terrorizes and sustains us, we pray for courage as we begin
this course. Invade our lives, robbing us of fear and envy so we
might begin to trust one another and in the process discover a bit
of the truth. In this serious business grant us the joy and humour
that comes from your presence. And for your sake, save us from
being dull. Amen.
Stanley Hauerwas (b. 1940)
from Prayers Plainly Spoken (Triangle/SPCK,
SOME years ago, after nearly 15 years in inner-city ministry, I
decided that it was time to do some more study. I enrolled on an MA
course at King's College, London, which focused on theology,
politics, and faith-based organisations. In many ways, this
explosive mix is the core of our everyday existence of both
proclamation and prophecy in the inner city, and so I felt that
this would be a good way of trying to understand better the
ministry that I have been offering up until now.
I remember vividly sitting in my first class, with all my
insecurities oozing from every pore. I was just not clever enough
to behere; everyone else was much more academic, and I, as always,
was the thick one in the corner.
But then I came across this prayer, which has affected my
understanding of reflection and study greatly. For many, study and
further training can be seen as boring. Ask any teacher who has
been told to attend yet another course or conference on a topic
that he or she is not really interested in.
Christians, however, must view reflection and study differently.
When Christians come together to study, we must pray that the
triune God of love makes himself known in the heart of all that we
are learning. We must pray for the courage to let grace sustain us,
but also to unnerve us to a different way of life.
We must pray that our lives and, just as importantly, others'
lives may be transformed, and that we may not be threatened by each
other, but work together. This, I know, can be difficult for the
clergy especially. I have lost count of the members of clergy I
have come across who are threatened by others' ministry, especially
when new creativity is being championed. It would seem that we want
others to do well . . . but not that well.
Professor Hauerwas is right. We do need to let our guard down,
in the gift of grace, and learn to trust each other better, in a
deep spirit of generosity. We cannot let our personaland corporate
insecurities set our agenda: they diminish the life of the Church,
thatgreat prayer for the world. We cannotbe bound by fear and envy;
for these, too, weaken the great prayer for the world. Indeed, love
is cast out by fear, not the other way round.
Perhaps Professor Hauerwas is also right in that humour and joy
provide such important ingredients when we are faced with our
differences when we study and we are threatened. Let us rejoice in
difference and in the gift of diversity, and in the learning that
comes from listening to one another.
What is clear in this prayer is that God is not dull, study of
him should, there-fore, not be dull, and our diversity is certainly
not dull. Let us pray that the great prayer for the world may also
not be dull, as I do fear that, for many, we currently are.
The Revd Rob Wickham is the Rector of St John-at-Hackney, in