A Stimulating Conference and a Prayer

Martha and John Tippler

Exhilarating! Not a word to throw about lightly, but at St Mark's church in Sheffield in mid-October, it was exactly the word to describe our feelings. We were, with about 400 others, at least as many men as women, taking part in a conference on the theme of 'A New Christianity fora New World'. The speaker was Bishop John Spong, until 2000 the Anglican Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. His message was one with which Unitarians could resonate: that the Christian church, in continuing to base its statements of faith on now insupportable images and assumptions, is in danger of dyi ng, and will do so if it does not honestly address that issue. For Spong, 'God ... is most profoundly present ... in the portrait painted by the early church of the man called Jesus of Nazareth.' He rejects the subsequent falsifying accretions to that picture. The honesty and clarity of Bishop Spong's presentation, and the thought that it could be presented in an Anglican church, with much evident approval by Anglicans and others present, was liberating and, yes, exhilarating.

We recently described our experience to the Boston congregation, and arranged a service using themes drawn from it. For use in the service, we made new prayers, including a version of the Lord's Prayer, which appears below. It aims to combine a certain weight with language acceptable to the reasoning Unitarian point of view. Because of its derivation, it does refer to Jesus, but does not exclude other sources of wisdom from use in worship. The Boston congregation has now decided to adopt the prayer for future use, and we are happy if any other Unitarians wish to do so. (The word 'Christ' as used here, simply confirms Jesus as manifesting in a special way the essentials of eternal holiness. Some may wish to omit it or to use an alternative.)

A Prayer

(Based on the Lord's Prayer)

Eternal Spirit, always with us
And holy in our thoughts,
May the strength of your presence,
Revealed to us in Jesus Christ,
Be everywhere upon the Earth.
May Earth's gifts sustain us,
And may our failures be forgiven,
As we try to forgive when others fail us.
May our sense of you strengthen us
Against the trials and hurts of life,
For your presence is a power in our minds
And a glory in our hearts forever.

'A Prayer' © Spayne Road Unitarian Church, Boston, UK, 2002