Michigan United Methodists are praying for the Commission on A Way Forward Feb. 4-10, 2018.
BISHOP DAVID BARD
This week, the Michigan Area is invited by the Commission On A Way Forward to be in prayer for our work as a denomination. This reminds me of another time period when prayer helped guide the church.
It was not quite one hundred years since the beginnings of the Reformation when some thought that the spiritual embers of that movement were waning. Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), a Lutheran pastor in Frankfurt, Germany, wanted to re-ignite a heart-felt faith and organized house meetings for prayer, Bible study and the sharing of Christian experience. The German Pietist stream of Christian faith traces its beginnings to Spener, and the ripples of grace that radiated from that renewal movement reached far and wide. Part of the ripple could be found in the work of Spener’s godson Nicolas Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (1700-1760).
In 1722, Moravian Christians fled their homeland under persecution and were given safe shelter by Zinzendorf. More Christian minorities came to settle in the area, which was named Herrnhut. By 1727, this diverse group of Christians found themselves mired in internal conflict and wracked by bickering. Zinzendorf invited them to prayer. Persons volunteered to pray at different times so that someone would always be praying for the community. This prayer vigil lasted for 100 years. More ripples of grace radiated out, and another person touched by these ripples of grace was John Wesley, the person to whom we United Methodists trace the beginnings of our stream of the Christian tradition. Wesley was aided in his journey of faith by a Moravian and later visited Herrnhut to learn about organizing for Christian renewal.
Today, we United Methodists find ourselves mired in conflict. We have a long-running debate about the inclusion of LGBT persons, grounded in other debates about reading the Bible and theology. Our debate may lead to division. Yet we who have been touched by ripples of grace radiating out from persons who sought to keep faith vital and alive, we who have been touched by the ripples of grace radiating from a one-hundred-year prayer vigil, we ought, in the middle of all our conversations and controversies, commit ourselves to praying for one another, for the Commission on the Way Forward and its work, and for our upcoming General Conference.
I invite Michigan United Methodists and any who would like to join us, for another special week of prayer. I offer this prayer for your consideration and use: