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Prayer and meetings

Prayer and meetings

Richard Schmidt reflects on the role of prayer in vestry meetings in the ECF Vital Practices for Leading Congregations blog:


‘The Lord Broke Through’

By Richard H. Schmidt, from ECF Vital Practices for Leading Congregations

Nearly forty years ago, I took my shiny new seminary degree to a county seat in eastern West Virginia. I served there as vicar of a small Episcopal congregation and soon bumped into some things I hadn’t learned in seminary.

The local Community Action Agency asked to locate its Head Start program in the house next to the church soon after I became vicar. The church owned the house and used it on Sundays for classroom space, but it sat vacant during the week. I thought a Head Start program would be a splendid use for the church property.

Although as vicar I could have given permission for Head Start to meet in the house, I thought it prudent to gain vestry support. The vestry discussed the proposal for two and a half hours. Arguments on both sides were presented: The building would be abused. It would be unavailable for church use during the week. We would have no control over what went on in our facilities.On the other hand, children were in need and we had a facility that could help them.

. . .

Praying had not occurred to me, for I had been too busy defending my position. No one felt comfortable opposing prayer, but I expect I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have much confidence in it just then. But we went around and around the table, each person asking for guidance, awkwardly and hesitantly in most cases. When the last one had prayed, someone said, “I think we can vote now.”

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Jim Naughton

This gives me something to think about. I have primarily seen prayer used in meetings as either a mean to a) avoid conflict (because Jesus lived an entirely pacific life and was adored by all) or b) establish the spiritual superiority of the person calling for prayer. I appreciate hearing another point of view.

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