Saturday, February 11, 2006

Prayers of the people:an answer for Jennifer

In the comments on my last post Jennifer (whom I was so pleased to hear from: do hope all's well, J?) wondered
Does the church staff there where you are pray together for the parishioners and for their requests? I'm not sure how it's done at my own church, but we have prayer request forms that we can put in the offering plate. Then, every Monday, the pastoral care staff gathers together at 1:00 PM to pray for anyone mentioned on those forms.
Here at St M's, we have a prayer board in the side chapel, beside a supply of tea lights in a sand tray, so that people can come in, write a prayer request and light a candle seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Generally, people are more apt to light candles than to leave anything in writing, but we harvest any prayers from the board that same day, and will pray them during the intercessions at Morning and Evening Prayer, when whoever is leading will weave the need into that part of the prayers...We also have a (very long) list of the sick (both within the parish and families and friends), which is prayed aloud on Sunday mornings and most weekdays by the clergy plus anyone else joining in the Daily Office. Prayers from the board which are specifically about sickness will be added to this list, as will prayers for the departed and their families (who are prayed for for a week following their funeral). People are often reticent about asking for prayer for themselves,- I have a sad feeling that they see it as a very last resort. Certainly, one lovely parishioner who died just after Christmas would only allow me to add his name to the prayer list in his last fortnight of life, though we all knew that he was in the end-stage of cancer for far longer...and that seems to be pretty typical. Indeed, it reminds me of the way, when I was a lay chaplaincy visitor for the children's ward at the local hospital, anxious parents would take huge care to ensure that I knew their child was "only in for his tonsils", as if the very appearance of anyone even semi-clerical could only be a harbinger of doom. What a sad situation to have reached...
We do have a genuine dilemma as to how to remove anyone, ever, from the sick list. Sometimes, in the case of chronic illness, a name can remain there for years, long after anyone in the congregation has a clue who they are praying for...and it is kind of disheartening for them to hear the same empty names read week in, week out. But pruning, unless we actually know an outcome, feels very harsh too. Does anyone have any bright ideas here?

5 comments:

Fiona said...

"as if the very appearance of anyone even semi-clerical could only be a harbinger of doom." - It's not that recent an idea either - when i had my appendix out in the 1970s as a young adult when the vicar came to visit me (as dear D did with ALL his sick parishoners if he knew about them) the old ladies in the ward were terrified by his appearance as if the mere sight of a Priest would automatically mean that at least 1/2 of the ward would need the Last Rites.

Songbird said...

The Catholic priest at our local hospital says he doesn't go to visit male patients with Irish last names before surgery, for much the same reason. Apparently it's okay to stop by after...
talk about racial profiling!!

Emily said...

Hi,

A couple of places I've worked used to have a notice in the bulletin that names would remain on the list a month and then taken off unless notified otherwise.

Anna said...

We've been praying for some parishioners for years and many of us don't know them. I mean to suggest to my rector that we put a brief paragraph in the bulletin about one or two of them each week, perhaps with a picture. It doesn't have to have all the gory details of their condition, but could give a glimpse of what they've done as part of St. M's family and how they're known and loved to those who know and love them. I think our prayers would become a lot more focused that way.

Jennifer Freeman said...

Thanks for answering my question, Kathryn! I think that our church leaves individuals on the prayer list for just the one week only unless someone tells them to leave the name on longer. When they pray in the service they don't say anyone's name, they just pray for "those who..." In private they pray for individuals.

Thanks again for answering! By the way, I'm doing well!