Lent thoughts – Serenity

Today’s lent reading brought me to this prayer by Fr James Martin SJ

A New Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God, grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m not you.



What are we saying?

Scottish Prayer book_1912“Someone new has joined our congregation. She works shifts so can only come to our midweek mass so we’ve enjoyed getting to know her over coffee after the service. A few days ago she spoke to me about another church she’d visited nearby for their midweek service. She was checking out other churches in case she has to miss a Thursday. This other church was rejoicing that they’d had the covers of their Prayer Books re-bound. How can someone rejoice in using such an old service,” she asked. “The language was awful, the theology even worse. Do they not know what they’re saying, or do they not care? And how on earth is an ancient service going to attract new and younger members? There was so much of it that I just couldn’t say or believe. ”

And I had to agree with her. We do use the 1970 Liturgy (grey book) here on Sunday mornings at our 9am service. Usually it is one or two older members who attend, but we do have a family who often bring their young boys along before they go off to sport. And we do have some visitors who come on holiday and I often wonder what they make of it. Just a few weeks ago we had some Germans who were walking the John Muir Way who came in and I wondered how easily they could translate some of it. But any time I have suggested moving to the 1982 Liturgy there is a hue and cry.

And I can understand that too. My home church still uses the 1970 Liturgy and it was what I was first introduced to in the Scottish Episcopal Church. I do love some of the poetry of its words, I know it off by heart,  but must confess that the theology of some of it bothers me too. Yes, I know that some people do join the church to hear that kind of old-fashioned language. But whenever someone new comes to church, looking to join, at one of those services I do find myself saying, “This is very traditional language. You might find the later service more modern.” But usually we don’t see them again. 9am suited them. But the language (and perhaps the theology) put them off.

I’d be interested to hear what others have done in this situation. Carried on to please the oldies? Or forced a change upon them? Or alternated week by week?

In which Ruth ponders scary prayer

I’ve been reading a little of Harry William’s ‘Becoming What I Am’, his book on prayer. It is dated of course, being written in 1977, but still relevant today.

For absolute love, God’s love, makes us fully ourselves, instead of the half people we generally are. And to become fully yourself is a terrible risk. It would commit you to God knows what and lead you God knows where. If I open my heart in simplicity to God’s love I might soon find myself in Bangladesh or something of the sort, or I might find myself disagreeing or even agreeing with Mrs Whitehouse. Or letting in God’s love might prompt me to join the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, or the Tory Party, or it might lead me actively to support the Tribune Group; it might make me concerned about the oppressed peoples of the Third World or even about my neighbour next door who is lonely. And God’s love has been known to make the most respectable people enjoy a pub crawl. And letting in God’s love is no guarantee at all that I will necessarily remain an enthusiastic member of the Church of England or even of the Anglo-Catholic set-up. And so, not so much in our minds consciously as in our bones unconsciously, we see to it that when we pray we keep ourselves tied up in knots. It is much safer. Let us keep on the armour of our sophistication and plump for security.

This is today’s scary Lenten thought. I might not sleep tonight because of it.

cat pray