How Praying the Lord’s Prayer at St Paul’s Cathedral Changed My Life – Christian Today

Mitch Carnell 18 May 2016

It was the last day of our honeymoon and we were headed for St Paul’s Cathedral.

As Rev Tom Guerry said at our wedding, “Carol and Mitch have loved before.” Carol had survived a terrible divorce after 20 years of marriage and my Liz had died suddenly of a brain aneurism after 32 years of marriage. Neither of us had expected to find love again.

Although St Paul’s was crowded, we managed to get inside. What a breathtaking, soul-stretching, holy place! We were simply overwhelmed by its beauty.

Neither of us had ever experienced anything that came remotely close to this. Every nerve in my body tingled with the sheer grandeur of it all. All of the guidebooks put together could not prepare you for this. How could one possibly digest it all?

As magnificent as the cathedral is, and as elated as I was to be there, my real epiphany was yet to come.

At 11 am, the public address system came on. The priest introduced himself and then said, “At this time each day we pause and say together the ‘Our Father’ prayer.”

Then the most unbelievable thing happened. Voices belonging to people from around the world, of every language, of every colour and hue, every nationality, disabled and whole, male and female, child and adult, gay and straight, prayed aloud together, “Our Father”.

For the first time in my 65 years the full meaning of the opening words caressed my soul in a way I had never experienced before. Here in this ancient house of worship, in this ancient city with my new bride, the true meaning of “Our Father” coursed through my veins. I was awestruck. There was no turning back. It was the beginning of a new understanding of my journey of faith.

I could hardly contain the sensation of oneness in God that engulfed my entire being. I knew that my understanding of God had taken a quantum leap. “Our” took on a meaning far greater, far more profound than its three characters would signify. This must be what St Paul had felt on the road to Damascus.

As I struggled to comprehend this unexpected revelation and gain some perspective, my thoughts drifted back to my childhood. Incidents and experiences that had remained separate and unexplored for their meanings for all of these years began to come together and a pattern began to emerge.

Two years later I discovered a prayer by Pam Kidd in Daily Guideposts 2001 that expresses the same phenomenon: “Dear God, in my scariest moments, you point me to the place where, in your time, You fit the pieces of my life together into a perfect whole. Thank You.”

The pieces of my life were slowly coming together. I understood that my revelation at St Paul’s was not the result of an isolated incident but had been a lifetime in the making.

I have been in church all of my life and had become a Christian at 11 years old. I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer hundreds of times, but never had I been so captivated by that little word, “our”.

St Paul’s Cathedral is light years away from the small textile mill village church in South Carolina, USA, where I grew up during the days of racial segregation, but that church too played a major role in my understanding of who God is and who is in his family. Our Father: Discovering Family, is an unfolding of my spiritual journey. The process of reflection and writing it led me to a far richer discovery than I had imagined at the outset. 

Our Father: Discovering Family is available from the publisher www.wipfandstock.com, Barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com in either paperback or ebook

Religion in Global Affairs – Martin Marty -ethicsdaily.com

Martin Marty (The Martin Marty Center: Sightings)*

Religion in Global Affairs | Martin Marty, Sightings, Religious Freedom 

University professors of religious studies and participants in interfaith explorations in many locales had to cheer to hear Kerry, a long-time advocate of religious understandings in international affairs, Marty writes.

When in the 1980s, Scott Appleby and I were first chartered to deal with one particular public expression of religion, the complex of militant fundamentalisms, we were confronted with a global scene for which we were not prepared.

We soon found out also that very few others were equipped to monitor and highlight these and other negative and positive religious outbursts. We were well supported and soon well surrounded by the few pioneers in this field.

Domestically, two factors have forced awareness on conscientious people.

The polarization of citizens on what came to be called “social issues” revealed that most of the troubling (and promising) topics had their roots in religion.

Also, much of the ammunition in the soon-stimulated “culture wars” dealt with religion among fighting factions.

Whether or not publics are more ready now than they were decades ago to deal with this new world is up for debate.

Meanwhile, the searches for and promotion of the understandings of religion in domestic affairs was eclipsed by the urgent signals tabbed “global.”

Appleby has gone on to head work on these subjects at the University of Notre Dame.

He and his scholarly companions are not focused on military affairs, on what can explode louder and kill more, but on the underlying informing and motivating elements in conflict and peace-making.

Often, “religion in global affairs” gets exploited by those who are absolutist about one religion versus others, that is, Christianity versus Islam and vice versa.

Exploiters profit when ignorance rules. It is therefore cheering when the public hears cautionary words from leaders, comments on misused religion or celebratory words when someone gets something right.

Tuesday, April 26, we on the sidelines had reason to applaud when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made international news with an address at the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, an agency which regularly provides a forum for those who would go deep in their explorations.

Kerry went deep. University professors of religious studies and participants in interfaith explorations in many locales had to cheer to hear Kerry, a long-time advocate of religious understandings in international affairs.

His words countered those of partisans at home and abroad who use religion to advance causes of hate and distortion.

Thus, Mr. Kerry, “It is up to us to recognize that we can’t lead a world that we don’t understand, and that we can’t understand the world if we fail to comprehend and honor the central role that religion plays in the lives of billions of people.”

Kerry returned to some of his familiar themes including, first, that those who suppress religious freedom feed angers that make people more susceptible to recruiting by terrorists.

Second, religious groups, because when they are demonstrably concerned with “stewardship of the Earth” may have many positive contributions to make.

And, third, religions are mandated to help the poor and the marginalized. So their interest in job creation globally makes them vital.

Some who read or hear Kerry (parts of whose speech are available online) will think he lives in a dream world if he thinks religions are ready to make such contributions.

Some will resent his praise of religion because they see religions by definition opposed to human good.

But the majority, if they tune in and are turned on by the secretary of state’s words, can be readied to get back to the sources of their faith, heed the community-building (as opposed to terrorist-feeding) uses of religious mandates and promises, and offer hope for a better future.

Martin E. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. A version of this article first appeared on Sightings, a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and is used with permission. You can follow Sightings on Twitter @DivSightings. He was a speaker at the Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC.

Thanks Seniors at James Island Center

RESOURCE_TemplateThanks to the wonderful group that attended my talk at the Senior Center on James Island earlier today. It was a wonderful experience. There was even a former student from my teaching days at Charleston Southern. There were so many interesting questions and comments. As always I gained some new insights. I loved the one, “I thought about Our also as in child. I thought I am only one person, why am I praying, “Our Father” and not My Father?” That makes my point beautifully. You also bought lots of books. Thanks again.

The Senior Center is such a wonderful facility and Lisa Zobel had everything ready to go. She produced a flyer for the program better than the one I sent her. We can hardly wait for the center to open in West Ashley.

Discussion of Our Father; Discovering Family at Senior Center

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On Friday, May 6 at 11:30 a.m. I will discuss what I learned in the process of writing, Our Father; Discovering Family, at the Senior Citizen’s Center on James Island. I wrote the book over several years. Many events took place during those years and thus the finished product rarely ends up at the place you first intended. Come and join the discussion. I am not a theologian. I am an ordinary lay person trying to deal with life as it unfolds. This is a look at my spiritual journey thus far. Copies of Our Father will be available for sale.

Do Your Words Sustain Others or Tear Them Down? – Guy Sayles -www.ethicsdaily.com

Do Your Words Sustain Others or Tear Them Down? | Guy Sayles, Communication, Speech, Civility, Presidential Election 

Words like Bill Kovach’s, which affirmed Rick Bragg’s gifts and bolstered his confidence, are all too rare these days, Sayles says. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

When writer Rick Bragg was young and struggling to find his way in journalism, he won a prestigious fellowship to Harvard University.

While there, he felt out of place. He hadn’t finished college, and he was in classes with people who were pursuing graduate degrees.

He was surrounded by urbane Easterners; he saw himself, and was sure others saw him, as a solitary redneck from Alabama.

Legendary newspaperman Bill Kovach befriended Rick, encouraged him and told him that he was gifted.

Bragg told Kovach about a newspaper editor who once sneeringly asked him who taught him how to write. Bragg hadn’t known what to say.

Kovach told him, “The next time somebody asks you that, you tell ’em that it was God.”

Words like Kovach’s, which affirmed Bragg’s gifts and bolstered his confidence, are all too rare these days.

There are more words in the communications-marketplace now than at any time in history: 24/7 television news; streams of information from blogs and newsfeeds; floods of email, tweets, Facebook posts and text messages; stacks of newspapers and magazines; and books of every kind: e-books, audio books, books serialized on the web; and still (thank goodness!) traditional books.

If words were merely commodities, and we valued them on the basis of supply and demand, they would sell at rock-bottom prices these days. Too few of those words flow from compassion.

Historians of American presidential campaigns caution me not to assume that there have never been debates (mud-wrestling matches) between candidates that are as coarse and mean-spirited as the ones we are hearing between Trump and everyone else.

Doubtless, those historians are right. I remember Lee Atwater, after all. If you aren’t aware of Atwater, it’s enough to know that he was a brilliant and cynical political strategist who built lower roads when the existing low ones weren’t low enough.

With the warnings of historians in mind, surely it’s still the case that the bruising personal attacks of this campaign rank among the worst examples of verbal violence. Tearing down, wearing down and, finally, taking down are the goals.

Apparently, many Americans are so angry at myriad things that the politicians’ heated rhetoric has become a means to vent their own simmering frustrations.

Despite the current climate of extreme harshness, I think we hunger for words that, like Kovach’s to Bragg, inspire hope, hearten the discouraged and empower the tentative.

An ancient Hebrew prophet whom we know as Isaiah describes a teacher who “knows how to sustain the weary with a word” (Isaiah 50:9).

Paul, whose own words could sometimes scald those with whom he disagreed, nonetheless wisely urged people to say “only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29-30).

We need to hear sustaining, life-building and grace-giving words.

Perhaps, even more, we need to speak them and, thereby, contribute to a growing chorus and resounding echo of words tuned by love.

Guy Sayles is a consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches, an assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb Divinity School and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. A version of this article first appeared on his website, From the Intersection, and is used with permission.


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