Prayers of and for The Southern Conference UCC - May 2012
Rev. Lynn Carman Bodden (Good Shepherd UCC, Cary, NC)
God of New Life, we praise you for all your gifts to us, most especially for life itself and the call to serve in Christ's name. In these days of transition in the Southern Conference, we ask your continued blessings upon us all. Enliven our congregations and fill us with your Spirit of hope and action. Encourage our clergy, that in changing times we may speak the truth in love, ever mindful of mercy and justice you long to witness among the people we have been called to serve in churches, prisons, hospitals, schools and other institutions. Strengthen our Designated Conference Minister for the challenging work that lies in serving among us and leading us forward. With all the joy that is in us and with openness to the church you are shaping us to be, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Warren Cassiday (St. John's United Church of Christ, Kannapolis, NC):
Blessed Living Lord, we have gathered together at this Annual Meeting of the Southern Conference as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have gathered to worship you and to seek your guidance as we move into our future. In Christ, we have gathered as one.
Yet, we admit that we come to our meetings with many differing views and opinions. And we are forced to admit that sometimes we insist that our opinion is the only one that should matter.
Forgive us for being blind to others who think or believe differently than we do. Help us to remember that we are Christians and Jesus is the head of the Church and the Southern Conference.
Sometimes, it is too easy to get myopic about little things in life and ignore the big picture. Forgive us, for it is all too easy for us to put another hairline crack in our unity.
May we truly understand St. Augustine’s teaching: “In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Lord, let that be true for us during our Southern Conference Annual Meeting. We pray this in the mighty name of our Savior, even Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Linda Clark (Union United Church of Christ, Norfolk, VA):
John 17: 20-21
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Your great desire is for unity among your people. You long to see harmony of spirit and agreement in our ultimate purpose to seek and to save the lost. Despite our differences, God, you yearn for us to love one another as you have loved us! In doing so the world will know who you are through all of us. Please shower us with your love! God, bestow upon us your spirit of accord and union as we prepare our hearts and minds for our annual gathering. We thank you for your blessings and we pray this payer in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Mahalia. W. Clark (member of Providence UCC, Chesapeake, VA)
Gracious God of our past, present and future, we come today with thankfulness for all you have done and are going to do for the Southern Conference. We come with special prayers for the upcoming Annual Gathering and for our leadership. We have had our triumphs and our disappointments. But only you, O God, know the plans you have for us, plans to help and not to harm us, but to give us a future with hope.
You have told us, O God, to ask, seek, and knock, and to pray without ceasing. So we come today, asking you to connect us to the good things in our past, and to forgive us of all hurts and harms we have done to each other and to your church whether unintentional or because of selfish pride. Only by your forgiveness of our past mistakes, O God, can we expect to captivate the present, and build a foundation on which to construct the future you have for us. Fill us with your Spirit, empower us with your love, enable us, and transform us to become one in the spirit. Help us to become the Conference you would have us to be for such a time as this. Give the leader you have chosen for us the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to serve only as directed by you. Give us clean hearts, refreshed minds, and willing spirits to serve you with unity in our diversities. May we be blessed by you, O God, in connecting our past, captivating our present, and constructing our future. In the precious name of Jesus the Christ, Amen. Return to Prayer List
Jean L. Copeland (Church & Ministry Commission, EVA):
God, Our Parent, thank you for the church founded by your Son, Jesus the Christ. May we never hinder Jesus, the Prince of Peace, from bringing souls to a new life in Him.
God, help us to be bold Christians, used to thy service to proclaim Jesus, your Son, and Savior of the world. We know the sacrifices that are made by your children in foreign lands. Save and keep hope alive in them.
Please God, give us the boldness to speak out against racism, sexism, economic disparity, and all types of injustices. Instill in us the ability and desire to show love to all with the belief that hope and faith in you never dies.
God of grace and mercy, you have revealed to those who love you that we must love and also care for others. There is potential in all of us to do what is right. We trust and believe that you, God, will help us today and always to make a difference in the lives of others through acts of kindness and acts of justice.
Give us strength each day to be a light in the world and to always worship you in spirit and truth.
Amen Return to Prayer List
Pastor Sheila Crump (Word of Life UCC, Moncure, NC)
Dear God, Bless the Southern Conference and Guide her every step of the way. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Nora Driver Foust (First Reformed United Chiurch of Christ, Burlington, NC)
Knowing and Leading God
Wander in this transition wilderness with us. We know that out of chaos you can make good and beautiful things and as we journey in this process, often so seemingly blind, guide our steps that they might be in the direction of your will for the present and future ministry of this unique part of the greater Body of Christ. We pray today for our Conference, it's leaders and members, asking for your wisdom to fill them as they seek a path forward in unity. We pray too, for patience God. Change does not and should not happen overnight and we must be patient as your will is discerned for this Conference. There are 214 churches with just over 33,000 members serving you in North Carolina and Virginia. God we pray your blessings upon us and the ministry that we provide to the communities we serve, we pray your peace in each of our hearts as we work toward your will. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Carla Gregg (Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Durham, NC):
God of Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Naomi, Peter and Paul; from generation to generation, from day to day, you make your love and generosity known. It is with faith in the abundance of your grace and mercy that we offer you our prayers for the Southern Conference.
We acknowledge our own brokenness, our sins, the ways we have missed the mark. Sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ways we have offended you by our treatment of one another and our lack of attention to your call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before you. We pray for forgiveness and courage to walk the path you have set before us.
As we seek to live as a new creation in Christ we pray for ears to hear the Word that you are speaking into our midst today and to act on that Word in faith and love. Bless us we pray with unexpected joys and moments of awe at the great works that you are doing in North
Carolina and Virginia.
O God, we have proclaimed your generosity, now help us live into believing that claim is true, not just for us but for all, not just here but everywhere, not just now but for forevermore. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who came living and breathing generous love. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Wanda Hunt (Chaplain, Pinehurst, NC)
Humly, and with Praise, we come before you with our Prayer of Thanksgiving, our Request for Guidance, and our Request for Blessings, for Our Conference Gathering - Ruler of the Universe:
First, we want to thank you, Great Breathing and Living Source - our Hope of our being, for loving us so much. You, Listening One, are with us at our Conference Gathering. You, Our Shepherd, supply our needs and shepherd us beyond our wants in our Prayer Request for Guidance and as we submit to you our Request for Blessings upon Our Conference Gathering:
Guiding One, Our Conference and I have no idea where we are going, sometimes, although you daily address us.
We thank you for leaders, past and present, who have help to shape the life of Our Conference by your design. Be with our current builder, our architect, our Conference Minister as he keeps us building the dreams for Our Conference - the dreams that are in our hearts. Help him to continue to lead us all into the light and the paths we need to take as a Conference, along with our able Governing Board of Directors. Bless today, all of Our Conference attendees.
As we pray for Our Conference, Caring, Forgiving, Loving, and Merciful One, make Our Conference always ready to come to you with clean hands and open hearts and straight eyes.
Unfolding One, we ask at Our Conference Gathering that you continue being in our heads - with our ears and our eyes as we look around and conduct Your Business.
Be with our understandings, and courage given and received, make us wise and use our individual and collective strengths - Your strength, Our Immortal, and Invisible - One, "with all our ways." (Psalm 138, v. 3).
Gentle Spirit, Sustaining One - We cannot know for certain where our paths will end, but we do know that we have your spirit within us, and "your right hand leads us", delivers us, "and holds us fast" (Psalm 139, v.10], and are at our Conference Gathering - at our avowed intentional Conference's Departing, and our content steady Living.
Our Source, and Sovereign - One, we really do not know ourselves - We think that we are following your will. But, are we actually doing so - even on the day you called us, and now? But when you hold, Our Conference in your palm, we believe that there is a desire to please, and we thank you also for being valiatly with us and not letting us waiver far from you......Let us go where our paths lead us, with ever faithful walks.
Humble Guiding One, as partners in sharing, we want our desires to please you, especially when we are still, praying and requesting your guidance for you are Our Conference's True Cornerstone (Ellaentraran), and the Rock (Piedraque).
Renewing, Restoring, and Substaining One - Beholding One - Watchful One, let us use the nourishment of food, prepared, to your service and to the service of others, and if there are any among us, or those elsewhere in our universe, that do not have an abundant of food and clean water; we ask you, Faithful One, for good food and water and your blessings for them now.
We know that you are our Good Shepherd. And we hope that we will practice your will in all that we are doing and that You will bring us peace for you are our Comforter and are our Truth Divine. With that peace, understanding of your lawful presence may we walk with you on our journeys and never do anything apart from the desire of being with you. And I know that if we do this - when you lift us up on eagle's wings, you will lead us by the right road though we may know nothing about it. In everything that we do and with everyone we meet, Sun of our Souls, let our words, journeys, and actions be acceptable in your sight for they will be expressed with you in the beauty of our world - embraced by your love, your peace, your comfort, your compassion, your understanding, ever flowing. We will remember you when we are lost. We will trust you, for you are ever with us, and you will never leave us alone - Mighty and Powerful One. You are our strength, in all - for we are not being greater than another - but as we fight our greatest enemies--ourselves. Return to Prayer List
Brenda Dalton James (member of St. Stephen's UCC, Greensboro, NC)
Thank you - Good Shepherd - for listening to Our Conference Prayer Requests and for blessing us -- let our spirits come to you when Our Conference is over, or when our lives fade and our travels end. Let us come to you, in the name of the Journeying One, Jesus Christ, in asking for all of these things, and - Your Blessings, thereon, now and forever, O Holy One, Amen.
All wise and merciful God, I come to you asking you to grant me hope in this time of hopelessness. Help me to remember that nothing is impossible for you to solve. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen Return to Prayer List
Rev. Dale Kennedy (First E & R United Church of Christ, Asheboro, NC)
Loving and Gracious God,
We give you thanks for the greatness of your love and grace bestowed upon us through the wonders of nature and through the working of the Holy One called Jesus. By his gospel we have received the good news of your redeeming love, and have been given new life in his name.
O God, you have called us to join you in the work of sharing your redeeming love with our fellow sojourners on this planet. Thank you for calling us together in that body we call Church, and for the empowering and enlightening work of your Holy Spirit. We especially thank you for the Southern Conference, for the unity of our mission, for the diversity of our gifts, and for the energy of our commitment as we live out your calling. You have entrusted us with a special mission in our time and place, and we pray that we who are the Southern Conference may be given grace to meet all the challenges of the present day, vision and courage to go forward into the days to come, and love to keep us in favor with you and with all who share the journey with us.
In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Doug Long (Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh, NC):
In our humanness, dear God, we recognize that we are good at dividing
into countries and clans and cultures
We draw lines and boundaries and borders
We divide by skin tone and race and gender and language ..
We divide by age and ability, by financial strata, education .. politics…
We divide by the way we love .. divide by love!! ..
and by religion .. Religion! .. We divide by that which binds!!
We divide ourselves from each other .. and from you.
God you must think we are a hopeless lot ..
And sometimes we are.
We confess that are almost hopeless in matters of the Southern Conference.
Almost .. because we have spent so much focus on dividing.
And yet, we still have some hope
Because we still believe in your grace, and power, and love.
Draw us together, Great God
Not bound together by rigid belief, or simplistic statements or crusty creeds
But bound together in love, and deep appreciation and need for one another.
Dispel our fears, Loving God, and restore our peace.
Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Lilton J. Marks, Sr. (Fellowship UCC, Chesapeake, VA)
God of Host please hear my prayer. I solicit your guidance in helping set the 'Way Ahead' for the Southern Conference. It will only be through your intervention can our faith and actions provide an outcome of unity and pastoral ministry among your people in this Conference.
Incline thine ears to us and grant us thy wisdom and peace for a Conference that will be "Rooted in Christ: Building Relationships through Love and Service." It is for our sake and to your glory that I pray this prayer in Jesus Christ name. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Gail D. McAfee (member of Congregational Christian Church, Hope Mills, NC):
Lest We Forget, Lord, Lest We Forget
Oh, Great and Mighty, and Gracious God,
You are so wonderful. You are our Keeper. You have blessed us to see another day .. and have allowed us to gather in Your Name to celebrate another Annual Gathering with Your people. God, we were a people who sometimes could not see our way, but You’ve always prepared a window .. or a doorway .. and You have allowed us to walk safely through. Though many arrows have tried to slay us, Lord, You have brought us this far by faith. God, we thank You for how You have kept Your Hand of Mercy on us, for how You have continued to watch over us, to strengthen us and guide us through. There’s a New Spirit in the air! .. Lord, a spirit of love, and unity, and communication, and service .. a fresh breath of You, God. .. And Lord, we are so thankful.
Let us not forget, Lord, down through the years, how You’ve blessed us, how You’ve protected us, how You have made a way out of no way, Lord, how You’ve guided us through. Every now and then, Lord, just tap us on the shoulder, whisper in our ear, remind us, oh Lord, that You’re still God, and that You cannot lie, You cannot go back on your Word .. You cannot fail. Remind us of Who You are, oh God, “Lest we forgot, Lord .. lest we forget.” As we gather together to join hearts and minds, and spirits, to celebrate, let us be reminded that You are the same God who parted the waters and made way for Moses and the Israelites to pass safely through, .. made Pharaoh come to know .. who You really were. Let that be a reminder to the Southern Conference, Dear Holy One, that that same God .. can part the sea of hatred, racism, division, separatism, debt, doubt, gossip, fear and grief. .. You can blot out every obstacle, every evil thought, every wicked plan, and if we turn it over to You, Dear God, You can bind us together in the true sense of the spirit, in Christ, as the Scripture so says, “That We May All Be One.” There is a New Vision in the land .. of love, peace, faith, hope and unity! .. so God we come together to celebrate You .. and to celebrate our being, .. and to lift up fervent and sincere prayers for the people of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Your Word requires us to love You with all our hearts, and minds, and souls, and then to love one another as we have loved ourselves. Those are the two Greatest Commandments. So remind us, Oh God, that no matter who we are, no matter where we’re from, no matter what we’ve done, You still love us. We are Your sheep .. and it is Your desire that we walk together, not in judgment, but in love and unity. And Your Word requires us to forgive .. as You forgave. When we can get that right, God, when we can get “self” out of the way, then, and only then can we truly call ourselves Christians, … people of faith “Rooted in Christ; then, and only then .. can we truly begin “Building Relationships Through Love and Through Service.” .. As we come together in service, in unity, and in love, let us work together .. to move this Conference forward, believing in You, God .. and walking together by faith. Lord, remind us that we have been called into service by The Great One who gave the supreme sacrifice, His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross .. who rose up on the third day, conquering sin and death, overcoming ALL .. that we might have a second chance. Please gently remind us this day, “ .. Lest we forget, Lord. Lest, we forget.” .. May Your Spirit continue to guide us, may Your Peace be upon us. Oh Lord, we love you today. Shower us with Your Holy Spirit. Fill us with Your Love. God, let Your Holy Will be done, through us, and by us .. in order that You might get the glory! Lord, please touch our hearts today. Allow us to see “ the Vision,” and cause us to join in the joy of discipleship, .. we, the people of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ, … a people of faith, renewed, strengthened .. and united .. grounded and “Rooted in Christ; Building Relationships Through Love and Service,” .. in Jesus’ Name, we pray. .. And all of God’s People said .. Amen! Return to Prayer List
Rev. Richard W. McBride (Elon College Chaplain Emeritus):
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:14-16)
Especially in this season when we seek to comprehend the fullness of Easter and how to live our Resurrection faith, our hearts burn within us when the scriptures reveal Your life binding us together. In the breaking of bread our eyes are opened and we recognize Jesus among us still. It is a profound joy to know that we belong to You and to one another.
But the joy is incomplete. Not everyone is here. Our circle is too small; our inclusion too meager. We have not been willing to embrace others outside our immediate circle. We confess our sin of excluding those whom You have already included.
Give us ears to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd: Let there be one flock, one shepherd. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Yvonne Riddick:
Do Not Worry
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 6-7, NKJV).”
Recently, I’ve encountered a number of families who are in crisis due to this slow economy. They are having a difficult time with employment, housing, and their relationship with their spouses. When we are confronted with a crisis we have a tendency to be anxious about it. To be anxious is to worry and this shows a lack of trust in God to handle our situation. We are to bring everything to God, every problem, every thought, every emotion, and every pain.
One purpose of prayer is to give us a release for our worries by communicating our concerns to God. Paul knows this all too well; when he wrote this letter, he was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome. Paul was sent to Rome because the Jews in Jerusalem wanted him put to death so he appealed to Caesar regarding his sentence (Acts 28:16–20). In the midst of his troubles, Paul penned these words to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
When we accompany our prayers with thanksgiving, this keeps things in perspective, reminding us of God’s love and God’s power to provide for us. Once we do this we will begin to feel the peace and joy that comes only from knowing that God is working in and through our circumstances.
Gracious and Loving God, today things are not what they should be so we bring to you all the trouble and confusion that we are experiencing. We struggle with feelings of betrayal; we wrestle with anxiety as to how we can care for our families; and in the deepest part of our heart we carry guilt not knowing if we have done all we can do; but now we look to you O Lord to help us with the decisions that must be made.
Lord, the only sure thing in our life today is you and your unwavering love. We thank you for your love and out of that love, give us patience; out of that love give us discernment; out of that love, give us understanding; out of that love, touch with your healing hands all the hurting places of our lives and in this community.
Lord, we ask that as we are confronted with so many things that can so easily keep our eyes off of you and cause us to turn away from you, give us the “courage to change those things that we can change, accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference (Serenity Prayer).” Teach us O Lord to “cast all of our cares upon you because you care for us” (I Peter 5:7). It is in the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ, that we offer this prayer. Amen Return to Prayer List
Rev. Jerry Rhyne (WNCA Interim ACM)
O God, hear our prayers and supplication for the life and ministry of the Southern Conference. We pray for discernment and faith as we move into a time of reorganization. Renew in us a new understanding of being in covenant with you and each other, especially as we meet in our annual gathering, “Called to be Rooted in Christ: Building Relationships Through Love and Service”. Still speaking God speak to us a word of hope that will bring unity to all that we are and do in the name of the one we call Jesus. Amen. Return to Prayer List
Rev. Bill Smith (Retired; member of Congregational UCC, Greensboro, NC):
Almighty God: Our Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter:
We confess, as we prepare for the 2012 Gathering of our Conference,
That we have failed to maintain our unity in the bond of peace. Some of us have faulted others as deficient in charity and understanding of other struggling sinners, viewed as unacceptable because of their sexual orientation towards members of their own gender;
Others of our fellowship have dismissed reading of Scripture literally, as lacking the mind of Christ, unaware of the tendency to do likewise with other passages which bring into judgment some other prejudices, including our own.
Mutual recriminations have led to reductions, even elimination, of support for our missions support for thr work of our Conference and National body in caring for "the least of these", in whom Jesus presents himself to our care.
Save us and help us, O God, as we pray in the name of Jesus. AMEN Return to Prayer List
Margie Weavil (President, Church Women of the Southern Conference)
Dear Father, help me to have the perspective that all people are precious to You. Grant me all through this day a discernment that seeks to communicate loving affirmation and concern for those whom I meet. Help me to express gratitude for the qualities within the people around me, and not merely the things they do. Create within me a sensitivity that responds to the voices of those who are encumbered with worries or heartaches, and prompt me to make time to listen to
Gracious Lord, may I live all this day with an awareness that Your presence dwells within me. Make may heart's desire be to do every task for Your Glory. Remind me the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes within me are open to Your scrutiny. Help me to live in such a way that I'm mindful of Your watchful eyes.
I commit myself now to working for You with excellence so that at the close of this day, I will have the assurance of knowing I did my best for You. Amen Return to Prayer List