John Coleridge Patteson

A Collect commemorating John Coleridge Patteson and his Companions; Bishop of Melanesia, Martyrs, 1871

Almighty God, you called your faithful servant John Coleridge Patteson and his companions to be witnesses and martyrs in the islands of Melanesia, and by their labors and sufferings raised up a people for your own possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Commemoration of John Coleridge Patteson, in Holy Women, Holy Men)

Inspired by offline encouragement, I find myself wandering through the Collects (prayers used by many churches including the Episcopal Church at the start of worship). Come wander with me. Hear what the Spirit is saying, as you listen to what we ask (and what we say about ourselves and our God) in the Collect we pray as we commemorate John Coleridge Patteson and his companions.

“you called” (let’s consider this one element of the Collect)

Once again we acknowledge a characteristic of God: Almighty God (One so beyond us) is also One who calls (a very personal, very intimate activity).

If God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks. Someone we love dies, say. Some unforeseen act of kindness or cruelty touches the heart or makes the blood run cold. We fail a friend, or a friend fails us, and we are appalled at the capacity we all of us have for estranging the very people in our lives we need the most.

“If God speaks anywhere,
it is into our personal lives”

Or maybe nothing extraordinary happens at all—just one day following another, helter-skelter, in the manner of days. We sleep and dream. We wake. We work. We remember and forget. We have fun and are depressed. And into the thick of it, or out of the thick of it, at moments of even the most humdrum of our days, God speaks.
Buechner, Frederick (2009-10-13). Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechne (pp. 2-3). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I believe (with Buechner and many others) that God speaks (“calls”) through persons and events in our lives. It is a very personal communication if we are paying attention. By paying attention I mean listening and wondering in prayer, in study, in quiet, in action (as we do what we believe God is “calling” us to do). In each of these moments we gain information. When what we “hear” is confirmed by others in our faith community, we can definitely go forward with boldness (like John Coleridge Patteson and his companions).

What are your thoughts as you listen to this prayer, especially the notion of “call”? What are your experiences, your hopes, your beliefs, given voice in this prayer? Please continue the conversation in the Comment section. Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.

Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690

A Collect commemorating Theodore of Tarsus

Almighty God, you called your servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury, and gave him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos: Create in your Church, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Commemoration of Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690 in Holy Women, Holy Men)

Inspired by offline encouragement, I find myself wandering through the Collects (prayers used by many churches including the Episcopal Church at the start of worship). Come wander with me. Hear what the Spirit is saying, as you listen to what we ask (and what we say about ourselves and our God) in the Collect we pray as we commemorate Theodore of Tarsus:

Almighty God

In this Collect we address God as “Almighty God.” In other Collects we use different terms of address (and we’ll take them up as they appear).

  • What images come to your mind and heart when you hear “Almighty God”? (Asked another way, what images come to your mind and heart when you call out “Almighty God”?)
  • Leaving your feelings out of it (for the moment) what scriptural and theological “truth” is being spoken when we use this form of address? (That is, what truth—rooted in scripture, tradition, and reason—do we perpetuate, do we pass along, in speaking this way?)
  • What feelings/emotions are stirred up by using this form of addressing God?

you called your servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury

  • Is everyone “called” by God to some ministry, work, place, or adventure by “Almighty God”?
  • What evidence do you have for your answer?
  • Have you ever felt called by God?
  • If yes, how did you know it was a “call” originating in God?
  • If no, explore what you understand by the word “call” and what “measures” you will use to determine that you are being engaged in a divine dialogue (or not).

and gave him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos

A pretty substantial calling (to establish unity and order) to be sure. A noble calling, requiring “gifts of grace and wisdom.”

  • What is a call of God to which you have responded (or are responding)?
  • What gifts of God helped you (or are helping you) fulfill your role in God’s call?

Create in your Church, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord [that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace]

There are 2 pieces to this part of the Collect: our petition (that God create anew) and our aspiration in receiving what we ask “that it (the Church) may proclaim….”

  • On a scale of 1-5 (1 = don’t believe at all to 5 = confidently believe), how firmly do you believe that God continues to create new things? Explain.
  • What “operation of the Holy Spirit” is required in order to help us (the Church) create a “godly union and concord”?
  • What is our role in helping God (by the operation of the Holy Spirit) create “godly union and concord” in the Church (that is, among ourselves)?

[Create in your Church, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord] that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace

To reiterate, in many of our Collects we ask God’s grace and blessing so that we may do (or do better), live (or live better) the will of God in our world. This is one of those Collects. After asking God to continue in us the creative activity of bringing us together and helping us live in harmony we speak our aspiration: “that [we] (the Church) may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace.”

  • Who is the Prince of Peace?
  • How do you know this?
  • How does (y)our church “proclaim … by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace”?
  • Can you list 5 such “proclamations”? Can you list 10? 20? Make and share your list.
  • What are some “proclamations” (y)our church might make better? might make for the first time?

If you are able to pray a Collect slowly, with serious (not cursory) reflection, with honest challenges to yourself and your church, you will find a rich and wonderful universe (a godly universe) of possibility, promise, and challenge.

In this and succeeding posts I will share my questions for reflection. I am certain that other questions will occur to you and I encourage you to ask them in the Comments section. I journal regularly. More than ask questions of you, I ask them of myself; my answers are written in my journal. My answers do indeed influence who I am and how I behave. My hope is that you, too, will find direction, encouragement, wisdom, challenge, comfort, as you ask and answer questions raised by the words we use in our Collects.

What are your thoughts as you listen to this prayer? What are your experiences, your hopes, your beliefs, given voice in this prayer? Please continue the conversation in the Comment section. Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.