by Carol Dixon
(The above photo is of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, Alnwick, Northumberland, Photo: © George Taylor, Used by permission)
A recent discovery of the prayer below reminded me of how different the future became in a way I could never have imagined as a young person growing up in a divided community and separated churches.
When I was young, my friend (also called Carol) went to the school just along the road from my school. Even though they were only a few doors along from each other, it was difficult for us to meet up as I went to the Duchess’s Grammar School for Girls, which was loosely affiliated to the Church of England whereas her school was a Roman Catholic Convent School run by the Sisters of Mercy and in the late 1950s & early 60s it was not the done thing to meet up with someone from a different denomination. Since my music teacher taught at the Convent School and my piano exams were held there, it wasn’t such a mysterious place to me and I didn’t feel the same kind of apprehension and uncertainty as some of my schoolfellows on entering the building for the exam because my friend went there especially as she had assured this Presbyterian that the statues were ‘nothing to worry about’.
Some years later when our children were young we visited the Abbaye de Ste. Sauveur le Vicomte which I knew from my friend was the Mother House of the Sisters of Mercy. We approached the large door and rang the bell and I explained in halting French that we came from Alnwick in Northumberland and the nun immediately recognised the name of the town where their teaching order was based in the UK. Even though we weren’t Catholics we received a wonderfully warm welcome and one of the nuns scurried off to find a very ancient Irish sister who was delighted to have the opportunity of speaking to English people (in a broad Irish accent!) On returning home I was able to share the story with my friend Carol and other Christians at the Ecumenical prayer group to which we both belonged – something which would have been impossible 20 years earlier when we were at school. How much things had changed in two decades and we rejoiced at the freedom we now had to share our faith together across many different denominations.
When I found a wonderful prayer below written by one of the Sisters of Mercy it reminded me of how the divisions of the past have healed and it really spoke to me in our current situation when we don’t know what the future will bring.
A Prayer For Uncertain Times
God of infinite mercy, hear our prayer!
In this time of bewilderment and fear, we ask you to give us the courage to take care of one another as Jesus did. For those who are ill, especially those who are frightened and alone, for those who cannot access healthcare, for those who are homeless and lost, hear our prayer!
In the midst of our sadness and grief, we ask you to give us words to comfort one another. For those who are dying, and for those who have already died from this virus, for those who tend them and for those with no one to tend them, hear our prayer!
In the midst of our own anxiety we ask you to give us the courage to support one another as you would. For those who are unexpectedly unemployed, for employers who share what they can, for our government and financial institutions and those who lead them, hear our prayer!
In the midst of our struggle to ensure a healthy future for all who live on this planet, we ask you to give us the hope that surpasses our current understanding. For healthcare workers, spiritual leaders and our faith communities, for artists and poets, for prophets and teachers, hear our prayer!
In the midst of our growing awareness that all life on Earth is connected, we ask for the heart to respect and cherish all life. That all peoples recognize that we are all your children, hear our prayer!
We trust in you and your power working in us. Please hear and answer our prayers.
— Sister Cynthia Serjak —
In times of uncertainty it is good to remember Paul’s words from I Corinthians 2: 9
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can imagine what God has in store for those who love him’. I find it very reassuring to know that although we don’t know what the future may bring, we can be confident that we are secure in the loving hands of our God, as Marty Haugh ‘s hymn reminds us.