The Bishop’s E-pistle: Epistle for the Nation

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 820)

I write this Epistle on Tuesday afternoon, before seeing the Inauguration of President Biden or surrounding events.

I call us as a diocese to pray for our nation. We pray for President Biden and Vice-President Harris, and their spouses and families as they take on these new roles. We pray for our legislators and other elected officials. We pray for the Capitol Police, National Guard, Secret Service, and all who are responsible for the safety of the Inauguration and the nation as a whole. We pray also for President Trump and Vice-President Pence and their families as they embark upon their own new roles.

Our Book of Common Prayer contains a number of prayers and thanksgivings for civic life. The tone of the prayers is always one of petition rather than adoration: we ask God to bless the nation and our leaders and ourselves with the gifts necessary to fulfill our ideals. We do not assume that the nation as a whole, or any one leader within it, already perfectly fulfills those ideals.

My favorite of the national prayers in the Prayer Book is a thanksgiving for “Heroic Service”:

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 839)

I love this prayer because it gives thanks for those who have sacrificed much and blessed us with much; but it also calls us to action. We may not rest until all share the “benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines.” The benefits of freedom and its disciplines exist in tandem; we do not get to enjoy the former without acceding to the latter.

May we not rest.  May we move forward. And may God bless us and guide us as we do so.