Church of England Diocese of Manchester Kirklees Valley

Midweek Prayer - short services & reflections from Derek Akker

For all the Saints, heroes and heroines of faith.

A series of prayers and reflection for the mid-week

This series of Mid Week Prayer will use the lives of saints as our inspiration. “Let saints on earth in concert sing with those whose work is done. For all the servants of our King in heaven and earth are one” Charles Wesley. As my reference I am using the biographical companion to Common Worship entitled ‘Saints on Earth’ by John H Darch and Stuart K Burns (Church House Publishing (CHP) 2017).

In the words of the authors:

‘Here are no plaster saints, but real flesh and blood human beings, warts and all, who despite the frailties of their humanity have much to teach us about the Christian life and service and worship of God.’

The series is not a study of the saints rather and opportunity to offer a pen picture of some of the heroes and heroines of faith, to be inspired by them and to use these pen pictures as a spark for a time of prayer and reflection.

If you wish to understand more of these heroes and heroines I recommend the you purchase the book ‘Saints on Earth’ from CHP. It is also available as an e-book. Alternatively you can use your search engine for information.

Each week I will choose from the saints and commemorations for that month. Some will be well known others may not. I may from time to time break from the saints and offer something not saint related.

On August 5th Mid-Week Prayer I will be recognising that no matter how comprehensive the list of saints may be it will always be incomplete. I am going to invite you to think of someone you have known and looking back has been a saint to you. I don’t need to know who they are, I will only ask you to hold their memory, in your heart and then in the silence of our Mid-Week Prayer time we will pray and reflect on these unknown hero’s and heroines. I will explain more on the 5th August.

Derek


Our Heroes and Heroines - 5 August

For all the Saints... to join in and hear the hymn click on the link below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OaBgaMcOvM

1 For all the saints who from their labours rest,

who thee by faith before the world confessed,

thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;

thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;

thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

3 O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,

fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

and win with them the victor's crown of gold.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

4 O blest communion, fellowship divine,

we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

5 And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,

steals on the ear the distant triumph song,

and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

6 The golden evening brightens in the west;

soon, soon to faithful warrior cometh rest;

sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

7 But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;

the saints triumphant rise in bright array;

the King of glory passes on his way.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

8 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,

through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,

singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

Alleluia! Alleluia!

For all the Saints is a hymn that gives me one of those ‘ee bah gum’ moments. The expression is in the Oxford dictionary as a Northern English explanation for expressing delight along with other emotions.

Over the last three weeks we have reflected on Benedict, Elizabeth Ferard and Ignatius.

I said early on that for this time of reflection I would invite you to think of someone you have known and looking back has been a saint to you.

I wish to share with you two people who were my hero and heroine to me. They are Joy and Arthur. I first met them when I was about 6 years old when I was placed in a children’s home. Why I was there is a long story. Outside of school I along with small group of children were cared for by Joy and Arthur. Joy and Arthur were a newly married couple and created a secure homely environment. Arthur was a good story teller, his bible story telling was something I looked forward to. Joy had an infectious laugh and was good at cuddles. I owed her a lot as one afternoon she prevented my abduction from the home by my birth father.

Joy and Arthur sowed the seeds of a loving a Christianity which they nurtured. The home closed after about a year and I moved on but Joy and Arthur kept in touch with my Mum and with her approval started to send me Scripture Union bible notes. I looked forward to receiving them every 3 months.

We kept in touch over the decades and the last time I saw Arthur he was in his 80’s, he died aged 84. Joy had died a few years earlier.

Joy and Arthur sowed seeds and gave me security as a bewildered 6-year-old and over the many years gently showed an interest in my growth and encouragement as I grew in faith. As St Paul puts it, they were ‘in Christ’.

I imagine we all have met people who have influenced, encouraged and supported us. We have met people who gently lived out their faith and in doing touched our lives, people who were ‘in Christ’.

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As we begin our time of prayer and reflection find a comfortable place to sit, slowly breath in and out, trying to calm yourself and become relaxed.

Now picture your hero or heroine of faith. Perhaps it’s their smile, the sound of their voice, the words they said that bring back the memories. Or perhaps it was their actions.

Give thanks to God for their lives and as a celebration of all that was good in their character, sing again ‘For all the Saints’.

The Lord’s Prayer

Final Prayer

Father, In the awareness of Your presence

Beneath the shadow of Your wings,

In the closeness of Your love, may we abide.

Jesus, In the fellowship of Your saints,

In the communion of Your faithful,

In the church called to mission, may we abide

Spirit, In the power of Your love,

In the fullness of Your gifts,

In the guidance of Your wisdom, may we abide. Amen

May God grant to the world justice, truth and peace

Amen


31st July - St Ignatius of Loyola 1491 – 1556

<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491, he later took the name Ignatius, he was the youngest son of a nobleman of the Basque region of northern Spain. His dreams as a young man were that of the glories of knighthood. The reality was different in 1521 defending the Spanish border fortress of against the French artillery, Inigo’s right leg was shattered by a cannon ball. He was carried back to his family home in Loyola where he began a long period of convalescence.</span>

During convalescence he read several religious books, the only books available to him. These books and the isolation during his convalescence led to a conversion experience. Ignatius began to pray, he fasted and dedicated himself to God. He later decided to study for the priesthood.

As a student in Paris he drew a small band of friends to himself and directed them in extended prayer and meditation, this method later became known as Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. After further studies, the first Jesuits were ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Venice and offered themselves in service to Pope Paul III. In 1540, Paul III approved the Institute of the Society of Jesus, known as Jesuits.

The legacy of Ignatius, the Society of Jesus, is wide, from its priests, its teaching and the encouragement of prayer and retreats. The Spiritual Exercises are widely practised in its various forms. There are examples using a simpler format of reflective prayer that are commonly used today. St. Ignatius believed that we can find God in all things, at every moment, even in the most ordinary incidents. To do this, we must take time to reflect on our experience, to look at the events of a day and discern their meaning.

St Ignatius expects the Jesuits to practice what is referred as the Examen twice daily, at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.

Further resources on Ignatian Spirituality can be found on the following web pages: IgnatianSpirituality.com, sacredspace.ie

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Take time to settle and feel relaxed. Notice what was life-giving or creative, where you felt there was a flow, an ease of being or an openness of heart towards others, even in difficult situations. Spend time allowing these feelings to grow in you and give thanks.

Ignatius recommended a five-step method of prayer called the Examen to help us find God in all things. The Examen encourages us to look back over a period of time and pay attention to what is happening in and around us. Then we look ahead, to what comes next, so that we can act in a way worthy of our vocation as Christians.

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Give thanks for the day that has passed

3. Look back over the day and recall those times when you were aware of being thankful (this could be for simple things like a stroll, the chance meeting with a friend.) Review the day with gratitude.

4. Face our shortcomings, what is wrong with our lives. Take time to accept who you are, to forgive those times you have missed the mark and let go of anything that you are clinging to unhealthily. Allow room to make choices and rest in God.

5. Look forward to tomorrow. What are we going to do? Where do I need to sense the presence of God?

The Lords Prayer . . ..

Prayer for Trust in Jesus

O Christ Jesus,

when all is darkness

and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust

in Your protecting love

and strengthening power,

so that nothing may frighten or worry us,

for, living close to You,

we shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

Final Prayer

Father, In the awareness of Your presence

Beneath the shadow of Your wings,

In the closeness of Your love, may we abide.

Jesus, In the fellowship of Your saints,

In the communion of Your faithful,

In the church called to mission, may we abide

Spirit, In the power of Your love,

In the fullness of Your gifts,

In the guidance of Your wisdom, may we abide

Amen

May God grant to the world justice, truth and peace

Amen

Derek Akker


22nd July - Elizabeth Catherine Ferard<span style="font-size: 1rem;"><span style="font-size: 1rem;">, First Deaconess of the Church of England, Founder of the Community of St Andrew, d1883</span></span>

After the death of her mother in 1858 Elizabeth Ferard wished to find a way to serve God and the Church of England. Her calling was at the same time the Church of England was discussing the revival of the order of deaconesses in England. Archibald Tait, Bishop of London, encourages Elizabeth Ferard’s religious vocation and her visit to the Lutheran Church in Kaiserwerth, Germany where a deaconess institution had been established. Her visit to Kaiserwerth and to other deaconess communities in Germany were inspirational and nurtured her desire to serve as a deaconess.

In 1861 she started her work in creating what would become an order of deaconesses. The Community of St Andrew, housed in Kings Cross, north London, with its rule of life based on worship and works of mercy was the first step. In July 1862 the Bishop of London admitted Elizabeth as the first deaconess in the Church of England.

There was a growth in the deaconess movement and their work among some of the poorest people in in the Kings Cross / St Pancras area of north London. They would have faced the reality of poverty, poor health, poor housing and malnutrition head on. The task must have seemed unending and yet they continued to give of themselves. Much of the conditions that were portrayed in Charles Dickens’s 1838 novel Oliver Twist were still a reality for many existing in Kings Cross. This was where the deaconesses served and sought to bring comfort and show mercy.

Not all deaconesses were members of the Community of St Andrew, some saw their ministry within the parish system. This parochial model was advocated by Isabel Gilmore (1842-1923). The deaconess movement was to spread worldwide, to many American cities as well as South Africa, China, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Elizabeth Ferard, Isabel Gilmore and the other early deaconesses needed to have a single mindedness and strength of mind in order to fulfil their vocation. They were reaching the highest clerical role in the Church of England at a time women had few rights were seldom in positions of leadership.

In 1987, four Sisters of the Deaconess Community of St Andrew were ordained Deacon at Bristol and seven Sisters at London. In 1994, three of those Deacons were ordained as Priests.

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As we begin our time of prayer and reflection find a comfortable place to sit, slowly breath in and out, trying to calm yourself and become relaxed.

Think about what you have just read, what strikes you about the position of the early deaconesses?

Is there anything you admire or question about Elizabeth Ferard's vocation?

Pause for moment and think about the challenges the early deaconesses faced, their strength of character and what we can apply from their lives work to ours.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father . . . .

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servants Elizabeth Ferard, Isabel Gilmore and the early deaconesses may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy. Amen.

Eternal God, the creator of the human family and the world in which we live, grant us the grace to witness in our lives the teaching of Jesus as found in the Gospels. Show us how to live together in the depth of your love. Teach us how to express faith in works of compassion and justice. Direct us as we strive to fashion a world and society reflective of your dream for us and all creation. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and until the day of eternity. Amen.

Final Prayer

Father, In the awareness of Your presence

Beneath the shadow of Your wings,

In the closeness of Your love, may we abide.

Jesus, In the fellowship of Your saints,

In the communion of Your faithful,

In the church called to mission, may we abide

Spirit, In the power of Your love,

In the fullness of Your gifts,

In the guidance of Your wisdom, may we abide. Amen

May God grant to the world justice, truth and peace. Amen

15th July - St Benedict of Nursia c505 is venerated by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.

Benedict is seen as the Father of Western Monasticism and Abbot of Monte Cassino. His journey from Nursia to Monte Cassino was not a smooth one. As a student he struggled the hedonistic life style that was all around him. He sort refuge as a hermit in Subiaco. His simpler life style attracted others and eventually he was directing 12 communities in the Aniene Valley, east of Rome.

He was forced to move from the Aniene Valley as a result of the jealous behaviour of local clergy. He moved to Monte Cassino and spent the last 17 years of his life building up the monastery. It was during this period that he wrote his ‘Rule if Life’ for the monks at Monte Cassino.

The ‘Rule of Life’ is more than a list on do’s and don’ts. It is strong on the position of and obedience to the Abbot. Benedict stressed that obedience to the Abbot was to come out of love not fear. His Rule also carefully integrated prayer, manual labour, and study into a daily routine. This was part of the spirituality developed by Benedict. It is the whole life that is important, for God calls the whole person and it is the whole person that responds to God. This is undoubtedly is his supreme achievement that has shaped Christianity for nearly 1,500 years.

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As we begin our time of prayer and reflection find a comfortable place to sit, slowly breath in and out, trying to calm yourself and become relaxed.

Think about what you have just read, what strikes you about St Benedict?

Is there anything you admire or question?

Now I invite you to focus on the daily pattern of careful integrated of prayer, manual labour and study.

I can also hear a loud bout of laughter, 'chance would be a fine thing with my work pattern, family responsibilities and church life'!

Let me rephrase it, when did you last look at your life style? Do you see your work, your family etc. as part of your life as a Christian. In Benedict’s Rule your pattern of work is part of your spirituality.

Also 1500 years ago life was different and these Rules were written for those who lived in community. Events could be controlled more easily. Having said that it is still good to try to get a balanced life style. It takes time and effort and discipline. Discipline was another aspect of the Rule of Benedict.

Let us start our prayers with the Lord’s Prayer.

Father, in Your goodness

grant me the intellect to comprehend You,

the perception to discern You,

and the reason to appreciate You.

In Your kindness

endow me with the diligence to look for You,

the wisdom, to discover You,

and the spirit to apprehend You.

In Your graciousness

bestow on me a heart to contemplate You,

ears to hear You,

eyes to see You,

and a tongue to speak of You.

In Your mercy to confer on me

a conversation pleasing to You,

the patience to wait for You,

and the perseverance to long for You.

Grant me a perfect end,

Your holy presence.

I ask this in the name of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ


Final Prayer

Father, In the awareness of Your presence

Beneath the shadow of Your wings,

In the closeness of Your love, may we abide.

Jesus, In the fellowship of Your saints,

In the communion of Your faithful,

In the church called to mission, may we abide

Spirit, In the power of Your love,

In the fullness of Your gifts,

In the guidance of Your wisdom, may we abide. Amen

May God grant to the world justice, truth and peace

Amen

Derek

Elizabeth_Ferard, JPG

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