James’s story

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Last year when my grandmother was transferred to hospice, my mother asked if I would select the scripture readings, hymns, and prayers and put together the funeral service. Knowing that much of what I needed would be in the Book of Common Prayer, I asked Daniel if I could swing by the church and pick up a copy. As sleep filled more of my grandmother’s days and her consciousness dimmed, my aunt made it possible for each family member to FaceTime with my grandmother. Much of our last conversation was me praying through parts of the Ministrations to the Sick and at the Time of Death. At a point, contrary to her usual disposition, she asked to put in her hearing aids, and lucidly, she and I exchanged expressions of our love for one another. What a rare and beautiful grace it was.

I have since held on to that copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Like most copies in the world, the copy I took from the church has a break in the spine from years of being opened only to the order of the service of the Holy Eucharist. Slowly as curiosity has taken root, I have started opening it up to pages which haven’t seen the light of day in years. Similar to the way that I have learned to scroll through my meditation app looking for a guided meditation appropriate for how I am feeling, I have skimmed through the various offices, devotions, canticles, collects, psalms and rites and have never failed to find prayers to help express the sentiments of my heart for which I would otherwise struggle to find words. This past Thursday commemorated the First Book of Common Prayer, a book for which I am only now learning to be grateful and which has deepened my faith.

Coincidentally, in the last few years I have ventured and seen parts of the church I had never seen before. I have climbed up to the belfry, spelunked to the boiler room, and been blown away by the sight of the organ blower. Similarly, in joining the Vestry, I have witnessed the dedication and faith with which we approach our duties to the parish: holding our worries and anxieties and those of the parish, acknowledging them and giving them space, engaging in lively debates about the future of the parish and the church at large, and bringing and sharing prayers and poems which have moved us, another depth of church life and faith I had not known or previously considered. As Daniel expressed in his sermon on Pentecost, letting go and following the Holy Spirit is terrifying work. The depths are profound if not limitless but—from what I can tell—full to the brim with grace.

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