Resurrection Church Has A Home!

A lot has happened in the last few months! After much discernment and prayer, we as a launch team (in consultation with Bishop Sean and our Church Planting Coach Jim Griffith), decided that Resurrection Church would be planted in the former Church of the Redeemer building.  We felt that having a location would allow us to connect with the community and would give us a place to worship on a regular basis.  In order to get the building ready there was a lot of work we had to do.  We’ve spent the summer renovating the building and getting it ready for worship and to welcome new people into our new faith community.

Our hope and belief is that the creative and new things we are doing with the building will allow us to do new things, reach new people and give us our best chance to succeed.  We have spent the past year learning, praying and discerning what this new community of faith will be – the location was one of the unclear pieces of the puzzle.  We are grateful for the clarity we have received.

Here are some of the many things we have done so far: we installed a new parking lot, put up new vinyl siding, and re-painted the entrance and the large social hall.  We also took everything out of the sanctuary in order to install a new sound system, projector, new flooring and padded chairs, and installed a new sign out front.  Much of the work has already been completed, but there is more work to be done!  Look for more updates soon and please keep us in prayer as we continue the work of planting Resurrection Church-An Episcopal Congregation!

The Rev. Jason Shank is overseeing Resurrection Church, our church plant in Hermitage.

The Personal Nature of Prayer Life

Your prayer life is like a fingerprint – no one has the same.  Our journey through life says it all.  I must admit though, “writing” about one’s prayer life comes close to asking about one’s sex life!  To me it has been a private matter, but when asked to share about prayer, I wanted to do the subject justice by telling how I arrived at this point of life at the tender age of 79.

I grew up in the church and received Christ into my life at 26 years of age through reading an old book, “Transforming Friendship” by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead.  I accepted Jesus as leader of my life and bridge to God, our Father, by His sacrifice on the cross. I had a conversion experience,  was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and several years later experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” during the Charismatic renewal in Pittsburgh.  During this time I was in a prayer group of about 30 plus people for a period of five years.  This was an intense time of Bible study, personal growth and prayer.

The first reality I discovered after my conversion experience was that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit wanted a “relationship” with me.  It was an intimacy of mind and heart that was so overwhelming.  What developed then was a “trust” – that no matter what my thoughts were, I could speak to this Trinity with total honesty, provide an open mind and be assured that I would receive guidance, comfort, forgiveness and spiritual grace.

My family then moved to north central Pennsylvania and I became very active in my church, becoming LEM II, choir, altar guild, vestry and ECW leader.  I also attended several classes at the Diocesan School for Ministry and was appointed to the Diocesan ECW Board as the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative.  I attended Cursillo and gave a couple talks at the Diocesan Mission Conference.  It was during this period that I wrote a prayer/poem, Special Friend.  All this activity occurred during 30 years.

Looking back I must confess – studying the Bible had been like reading a history book and just provided verification for my conversion and spiritual experiences.  The BCP (Book of Common Prayer) was not a book I turned to for “spiritual uplifting”.  Also, prayer came with difficulty – whether said out loud or in my mind.  I never seemed to have the “right words” and I didn’t feel comfortable praising God either – “why did He need praised?”

But, nevertheless, Our Lord had a Way – a niche and I never saw it coming.  I believe it began when I was preparing a talk and was searching the BCP when I came across the definition of prayer (page 856).  “Prayer is responding to God, by thoughts, by deeds with or without words.”   Now that put me into a Receiver position, i.e., I did not have to make up beautiful words to pray – instead I was to receive and respond.  God was the Initiator – but how was I to respond?

This quest led me into Contemplative Prayer.  I read Thomas Merton’s  “Open Mind, Open Heart” and listened to Thomas Keating’s lectures on “Centering Prayer.”  I did not have to “make up” anything – just be quiet!  I also learned that God did not need me to praise Him for His benefit or ego.   God wanted me to praise Him for my benefit.  My praise was to open my heart to Him.  Again, the BCP: ( page 857),  “……God’s Being draws praise from us.”  Now that was a very good reason to me!

The “speaking in tongues” gift that I had received over 50 years ago also served the purposes of praising God – in a prayer language. Occasionally, when I could no longer think of what to say, I could use my voice to express what my heart felt.  It was like expressing love using your voice and you knew that what you said was right and not orchestrated – you did not have to think about what to tell God how or what you wanted Him to do; you just provided the sacrifice of your time and voice.  This I could do out loud or silently.

Also, if ever I have the opportunity to participate in “laying-on-of-hands” for prayer ministry, I encourage it.  There is a special intensity which breaks through and creates community and sharing of one spirit.  It is like a marriage of our spiritual selves together for the common good.

I have now arrived on my prayer journey.  Now upon hearing Scripture and BCP prayers in church,  I know they have been written by others who have been inspired.  My approach to prayer now begins with honesty of mind and heart.  As I begin to be open in prayer, I usually like to “name” what I am thinking.  I try to find a word to best express what is bothering me or the reason I think this or that.   It is kind of like confession.   I then turn that thought to God’s will for healing, forgiveness or release.  I lift up names in petition knowing that God knows their needs.  I like to practice silence in the style of contemplative prayer – just basking in His presence. “For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough” (Claire, Outlander by D. Gabaldon, Chpt. 38). Occasionally, I use my prayer language – especially in times of joy.  I also delight in His blessings and gifts of ideas or humorous coincidences that could only come from God’s unique Grace and Blessings.  Prayer has become a very safe and loving place.  Amen.

Diane Pyle is a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Emporium, and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative on the Diocesan ECW board. 

Painting Icons as Prayer

Icon by Canon Martha IshmanRecently, I spent a week at Kanuga immersed in painting (some would say writing) my very first icon. I went into the experience not knowing what to expect and not really being sure whether or not I even liked icons. I have a few and I cannot say they ever spoke to me in a very deep way. What attracted me to the workshop was an opportunity to do something concrete that nonetheless spoke to my soul.

We began with a board prepared with gesso—twelve layers of it in fact! It was completely white and as the instructor said, represented chaos out of which we were going to bring order. To be more accurate, she said God working through our hands would bring the order. The first step was transferring the image to the board and then etching that image into the gesso. After that, we added layer after layer of egg tempura paint, gold leaf and at times India ink.

The entire process was immersed in prayer. Holy Eucharist was celebrated every morning and the day ended with Evening prayer.  In the studio, we began each work session by sitting quietly with our icon in its various stages and allowing it to speak to us. At times it was quite intense. The icon worked on me as much as I worked on it. My first prayers were simply, “God, help!” Then gradually, I was able to let go of my own directives and began to trust the process itself.  As our instructor reminded us, there are no perfect icons but the work is all for the glory of God. Layer after layer, the image emerged and I was able to more deeply enter into the experience.

I discovered that painting icons is indeed prayer. It is a conversation with God. And as in all other forms of prayer, when we truly place ourselves before God, we are sometimes challenged and sometimes chastised but always, we are blessed. I give thanks for this opportunity to learn a new way to pray.

The Rev. Canon Martha Ishman is Rector at St. James, Titusville, and Canon for Mission Development and Transition for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

This is the seventh installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Prayers for Church Growth and Development

A number of years ago, St. John’s in Sharon offered the following four prayers for the development of our church’s mission and ministry. The prayers are based on suggestions by Dick Eastman in his book The Hour That Changes the World.

Eastman suggests that as part of our world-changing intercession, we should ask God “to give more laborers into the harvest, to open doors for these workers, to bless them with fruit as a result of their efforts, and with the finances to expand their work” (page 79). These four prayer foci are also important prayers for the growth and development of our diocese and for our congregations. At St. John’s, we took each area and wrote a short scriptural prayer that we could use to pray for that intention.

Prayer for Laborers in the Harvest
Thank you, Lord, that the harvest is plentiful. We pray that you would send out laborers into your harvest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(From Luke 10:2)

Prayer for Open Doors
Thank you, Lord, that you promised what we ask for we will receive, what we seek we will find, and when we knock the door will be opened. We pray that you would open doors for our ministries and provide us opportunities for success in your work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(From Matthew 7:7-8)

Prayer for Fruit
Thank you, Lord, that we did not choose you, but you choose us, and you appointed us to go and bear fruit. We pray that we may abide in you and bear much fruit, and thereby glorify our heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(From John 15:5,8,16)

Prayer for Financial Resources
Thank you, Lord, that every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. We pray that you would gift us with everything we need in order to do the work you have given us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(From James 1:17)

The Rev. Adam Trambley is rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon. 

This is the sixth installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Why Do We Pray?

We sometimes find ourselves – whether as an individual or part of a group – alone in the mission field. By alone, I mean the individual or group, though in the midst of hundreds or thousands around us, were alone as we jumped on an idea and did not bring God into the mix. I’ve had the experience of a group trying to engage God’s people in the field of the world in what WE determined was a useful way…but the small group missed the mark. We organized, we consulted, we analyzed, we came up with a plan and even had the “post event” ready to go…but all fell flat. Why…we didn’t understand – what did we do wrong? Come on… we did this for God, it was for His people, it was good, and it was a great plan. But why did it fall so flat, flub, not even a hint of some redeemable good for all the work and effort we put in?

Some might say that we could look under all the rocks and be alert to what God has in plan that we don’t see just now. Yet, there is something inside of us that knows that our efforts did not remotely come close to benefitting God. There seems to be no benefit for the work and we might have burned out a few good folks along the way or might have used a few favors from friends or colleagues as well.

This might have happened to many of us…we had this great plan. We had the best intentions…we truly wanted this for God…all the best goals were considered. But it reminded me of trying to buy a present for someone close to me at the last minute without the opportunity to ask, or consider what was best for that dear person, a person that counts on us and knows us and has been generous with us. What we did find and offer at the last minute wasn’t a gift that was needed…but a cover-up for not taking the time to really find out what the person wanted or needed.

workplace-1245776_640We do that to God some days…He can be short-changed based on our busy lives. In His or Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s name we come up with some goofy things that we think are needed for us to do. We may spend a lot of time thinking about it, planning about it over multiple meetings. We may ask or include a lot of people and we may spend a lot of money on doing whatever we came up with that we should be doing, but it is just a cover-up for something we are lacking.

So, what are we lacking…maybe it is as simple as getting to know and spend some time with God? We know the best gifts are rarely the most expensive items, they are things that are just needed (generally not wanted). God needs us to understand Him as the people He created. We need to know who God is to us. We need to know who God wants us to be. How does He wish us to engage the world He has laid before us?  These may seem like difficult questions, but think about our best friend in the world. Would it be difficult to answer any of these questions? It probably would not take very long…because we know that person, we are close in all the positive ways and intuitively understand them. We can be close to God in the same way…through prayer.

We do embrace God for many things in prayer. He wants us to come to Him with our concerns, He wants us to lay our troubles at the foot of the cross, and He wants us to lift up our concerns for ourselves and others. Because He knows us…inside and out…just like the creator He is…there are no secrets. To Him, we are an open book with all chapters (past and present) highlighted, marked and read. The question of the day…can we say that we understand God as well as He understands us? Have we taken the time to know who He is? Sure – a good Bible study is great, important and helpful for many reasons, but have we taken time to listen? Listen for His words directly to us and not through anyone else, just from Him, in whatever way He chooses to communicate…but are we there to hear Him?

We live in a time that is a mixture of responses from the world. The world feeds us with information that seems very personal, because the world has invested time and money into understanding just who we are. The world does this most likely because they want something from us (probably our money). God invests in us as well for a very simple reason, He loves us.

Just simple time with Him…quiet time…praise time…study time…it is our time together. Listen and watch for Him in everything and everywhere. The easy part, there are no rules …just make the time, any time, any place. Clear our minds of our stuff, our wishes, our wants, our agenda…what is God saying to us? No analyzing, no judgement, no comparison to the past or present…just listen. Leave what we know, what we have done and just how smart we are…and just listen.

He does love us, He does know us, He is as present today as in the beginning. Just listen and you will then see and know.

The Rev. Randy Beck is Deacon at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Greenville, PA. 

This is the fifth installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Pray Without Ceasing

Ever since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17), I think followers of Jesus have internalized some sort of guilt that we aren’t praying enough. I’ve never met a Christian who felt like they had mastered a really great prayer life, much less one that could confidently say that they prayed without ceasing. I think many of us feel like prayer-failures because we have set ideas of how we ought to be praying and find ourselves always falling short.

My grandparents sat every morning of the world together after breakfast and had their ‘devotional’ time. Papaw would read assigned scripture and a reflection from Guidepost Magazine; Mamaw would name off the missionaries to be prayed for and tell their story from the Baptist Ladies Missionary Aid Society. Then Papaw would commence to praying for everyone and everything he knew and loved, especially that we grandchildren would all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It didn’t even strike me odd at the time that he prayed for my salvation right alongside his tomato crop.

As I became more serious about living out my own faith, I wanted to get more serious about prayer. I decided to emulate my grandparents and set aside morning time to pray, but I never seemed to have the time. Then I committed to getting up extra-early every morning to read the Bible and say prayers – which worked just about as well as my commitment to get up extra-early to go to the gym did.

people-prayingThe truth is, my prayer personality is not the same as my grandparents. Yours probably isn’t the same as mine. Instead of beating ourselves up because we can’t seem to succeed at praying in a certain way, how about we explore what way of praying works for us?

That’s what I did. When I lived in Houston and regularly had an hour commute each morning, drive time was prayer time. As a mother with small children, God got a quick hello during my morning shower and I did my real praying at bedtime, just like my kids. Yes, sometimes I fell asleep before I got through all the God blesses, but I figured God understood.

If you are committed to improving your prayer life, you can do it. You can find what and when and how works for you.

Some tips to try to get you started:

  • When you first wake up, before getting out of bed, just say a quick good morning to God. Mine is, “thank you God for bringing me to this new day. Be with me in it and help me to bring your love where ever I go.”
  • If you take morning showers, review the day ahead, intentionally asking God to be in it and bless it. Sing a favorite hymn of praise, even. That’s prayer, too.
  • If you have a quiet time in the morning or at lunch or in the evening, set aside 20 minutes to read the daily office from the Book of Common Prayer. There are even apps available on your phone with the set scriptures for the day. I don’t say the office at the same time every day, but I almost always get it said. Waiting in a pickup line for kids, or at the doctor’s office or where ever, you can do it.
  • Give thanks before each meal where ever you eat it – it takes 30 seconds and saying ‘God is good, God is great’ is fine.
  • As you lay down to sleep each night, thank God for the blessings of the day and try to leave your worries in heaven to be sorted out.

Try one or more of these, or try something unique to you. Like the Nike ad says, “just do it.”

The Rev. Stacey Fussell is Rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Bradford. 

This is the fourth installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Prayer Changed Me

Almost twelve years ago, I took a vow to follow a Rule of Life which required a daily discipline of prayer. With 5 other women, I promised to pray faithfully so that I might draw nearer to God and learn His will for me. And so, I began the Practice of Prayer. Brother Lawrence wrote in The Practice of the Presence of God, “It is a great delusion to think our times of prayer ought to differ from other times” and “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it that practice and experience it.” Like all good habits, the practice of prayer requires a commitment.

I don’t want to give the impression that prior to 2005 I didn’t pray. As a practicing Episcopalian I found the prayers in the BCP beautiful and helpful. They expressed my thoughts and desires much more eloquently than I could ever do on my own. I had my moments of praise and thanksgiving, (like grace before meals) and I would send up the silent “help me or help them.” I had a church life but what was going on between me and God? Were we actually communicating or was He communicating and I wasn’t listening? When I made that commitment to a Rule of Prayer I quickly learned that I needed to set aside a time and a quiet place to study scripture and converse with God.

He said: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence— and then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13

beach-1868772_1920Like Elijah, we strain to hear God over the cacophony of our world. Blaring TVs, traffic noises, the ping of our phones and the intrusion of our thoughts all work to obscure the voice of God. When we take the time to spend it with God, we begin to grow into a more intimate relationship with Him. The world is held at bay and we sometimes hear that still small voice.

As liturgical people, we have those beautiful prayers but when we want to converse with Him it should be in our own words. Where do we begin? We can use The Lord’s Prayer given to us by Jesus as a model. It contains all we need for a prayer: acknowledgement and praise of God, turning our wills over to Him, petition for necessities, request for forgiveness and the ability to forgive others. There are as many prayer formats as there are personalities but with practice our prayers will become uniquely our own.

As I become more experienced and comfortable with my time in prayer, I realize that prayer is not limited to a certain time, place or format. It is important for me to set aside that special time for meeting with God but I also know He is with me at all times. I do not need an appointment to talk with Him and I know I can call out to Him at any time. Prayer is about getting to know God better, to trust Him more and obey Him completely. Prayer is not about what we want and how to get God to give it to us. He already knows our needs. It is about relying on Him 24/7. It is an ongoing conversation with God by which we discover His will for us.

Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Kathy Paulo, a member of St. John’s, Franklin, is President of Grace Chapter of the Order of the Daughters of the King at St John’s, and 2nd VP for membership of the Daughters of the King, Province 3. 

This is the third installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Awareness

Prayer is awareness of our relationship with God. We are always related to God, God is not “somewhere else” but within us, around us, between us, as well as beyond us, whether we are conscious of God or not. In prayer, we become aware of this relationship. Such awareness can come spontaneously, perhaps in the heights or depths of our lives, but it can also come amid the ordinary. Often, as C.S. Lewis said of “joy,” we catch this awareness in the fleeting moment it passes, and are left with an imprint of God on the soul.

At other times, we become aware of God in intentional, cultivated ways and
practices. These could be formal, liturgical, structured prayers like the Daily Office, or they could be informal. Informal prayer can be conversational or reflective. In my own life, prayer has become increasingly reflective, a
contemplative shared silence. Desmond Tutu described this as something like pexels-photo-101982sitting before a fire, absorbing the warmth.

Like all relationships, our relationship with God has its seasons. Sometimes closer, sometimes more distant, sometimes going into the Dark Night when all sense of God’s presence is gone, and the old ways no longer “work” as they once did. The witness of Christian spirituality is that times of darkness are often the passage to a new and deeper awareness and practice of our relationship with God.

Perhaps the deepest prayer is a profound sense of unity — with God, with others, with ourselves, and with all creation. This awareness is not experienced as something separate from life, but rather the deepest connection with it. For most of us, such moments are rare, but unforgettable.

The Very Rev. Dr. John P. Downey, Dean, the Cathedral of St. Paul

This is the first installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

Invitation to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil – March 17 & 18

altar-boy-1190759_1920The conviction that praying shapes believing is part of our Anglican heritage.  Prayer is a core practice of our Christian faith and serves as both a foundation and covering for our common mission.

I invite you to join me in prayer for our diocese at St. John’s, Sharon, on March 17-18 from noon to noon.  We will set aside 24 hours to pray for each other, our common life and mission, and our communities.

Please join us as you are able.  I recognize that not everyone will be able to join us in Sharon, but I hope that you will offer prayer from wherever you are during that time.

+Sean

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The schedule for the prayer vigil is below.  As you can see on the schedule, we will be praying from noon to noon with services and events planned throughout the vigil.  All are welcome to join us for any portion of the vigil, whether that be attending a single service, coming just to pray on your own for a time, or being present for the full 24 hours.  There will be food provided throughout our time.

We will also have a form on the website for those who would like to submit prayer requests to be prayed over by our intercessors.  You are welcome to submit as many as you would like.

If you have any questions about this event or submitting a prayer request, please contact Vanessa.

Schedule for Prayer Vigil
March 17-18
St. John’s, Sharon
12:00 PM       Stations of the Cross
2:30 PM         Centering Prayer teaching and prayer time
5:30 PM         Evening Prayer
7:00 PM         Healing Service
10:00 PM      Compline
11:00 PM       Oral Reading of Book of Revelation
12:00 AM      Private Prayer/Intercession over submitted prayers
7:00 AM         Morning Prayer and Praise
9:00 AM        Prayerwalk & prayers for community
11:00 AM       Eucharist
12:00 PM      Lunch with St. John’s Family Kitchen (if you wish to stay)