Our conference will help lead the way for an urgent, yearlong prayer vigil for the mission and future of our denomination when we gather in prayer among our various churches and homes Jan. 8-14, 2017. We will be the second conference to engage in the Council of Bishops’ Praying Our Way Forward Initiative, as we pray together for a full week for “the church’s effectiveness in fulfilling our mission of making disciples and for the outcome of the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.”
The council organized that global commission of lay and clergy church members to examine fully the church’s laws and teachings on homosexuality and determine whether to recommend requested changes to General Conference. The denomination’s unity hangs in the balance, as some groups anticipate division along ideological lines, depending on what the Council of Bishops recommends and General Conference decides. The 32-member commission may commence its difficult deliberations in January, hoping to resolve a decades-long impasse.
Individuals are asked to sign up online for the 24-hour, 7-day prayer vigil by selecting a one-hour slot or more to pray during that week. In her blog, Bishop Johnson asks that our prayers be twofold. Pray that God will help us to more effectively fulfill the mission of the church, and pray that we can all be truly one in Christ.
Spiritual Director Maryanne Ditter has authored a useful Prayer Guide that can be downloaded from our website to help facilitate daily prayers during that week. It is only a guide for ways to pray, and persons can either use it during daily prayer time or pray as they are led. Please distribute it among church members now, and ask them to commit to praying daily during that week.
In addition, there will be at least two—and maybe more—mid-week prayer gatherings that week. All are invited to a conference prayer service on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 7 PM at Lima UMC, 209 N. Middletown Road, Lima, PA. The evening will feature a “concert of prayer,” including readings, responses, songs and prayers. Come out and pray together with your church family on behalf of our denomination. If you have any questions about this night, please contact Maryanne Ditter by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwest District will also sponsor a special prayer service and vigil at First UMC Schuylkill Haven at 420 Saylor Street, Jan. 11, beginning at 6 PM. The service will include congregational, individual and small-group prayers. A concert of prayer will follow from 7 to 9 PM, after which attendees will be invited “to linger and abide in prayer” throughout the night until dawn. People will be invited to remain in prayer for as long as they are able and to leave as they must. The event is open to all.
If your church plans to sponsor a prayer service during that week, as part of the conference-wide UMC prayer vigil, please let us know, so we can publicize it.
Also, the Council of Bishops produced a short video that explains the prayer vigil initiative, Praying Our Way Forward: We are One in Christ. And the Upper Room has developed a website called UMCprays.org that features resources to help plan a week of prayer. You can receive e-mail prayer post prompts from the website in three e-mails a week. Just join the prayer community and then sign-up with your email address.
Early Sunday morning, Jan. 8, a prayer offering composed by Bishop Peggy Johnson, titled “Moving Forward in Grace,” will go out to e-mail addresses around the world, so members of the United Methodist Prayer Community can pray with our annual conference the entire week.
Each Wednesday an e-mail containing a few lines from John Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist” and a few stanzas from one of Charles Wesley’s hymns (along with the prayer from the Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Consultation on Common Texts) will be delivered along with a few questions for reflection. These resources can be a useful tool for prayer and Bible study groups and mid-week worship services.
Each Friday, an e-mail post will contain a few thoughts on how to add intentional action to the prayer of the week and the words from the Wesley brothers.