Cindi Ross Scoppe

First pray, then vote — then pray some more

NYT

For all our nation’s citizenry, that we may give thanks for God’s many blessings to our nation by our commitment to the principles of justice, liberty, and equality for all: let us pray to the Lord.

For those pursuing elective office, that they might be filled with a humble spirit and do that which is pleasing to God: let us pray to the Lord.

God of mercy, Lord of peace, hear the prayers we make to you on this Election Day when we vote for people to serve the public good. Make us truly a nation united. May our land be a harbor of peace and unity for all people, races, faiths, and cultures until the coming of your kingdom, where you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

— Intercessions for Election Day

I WROTE A COLUMN for Election Day about how we begin to heal our strained relationships after this election.

But then I got a letter from George Martin about the Election Day prayer vigil at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Columbia’s St. Andrews neighborhood, and through a series of events and conversations, it became clear that I needed to hold off on that column — it will be every bit as relevant on Wednesday, or Sunday, or next week — and spend today urging everyone to do something for our country in addition to voting: pray.

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On Election Day, pray for our leaders, pray for us

What we wake up to on Wednesday

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Mr. Martin wrote that Assistant Rector Alice Mills tried to get people in the right frame of mind for the vigil by reminding them that “God loves Donald Trump and all the people who support him” and “God loves Hillary (Clinton) and every one who intends to vote for her.”

I happened to be spending Friday and Saturday with most of the Episcopal priests from the Midlands and Upstate, so I made a point of meeting Rev. Mills, to tell her how much I appreciated her comments. I first ran into the interim rector at St. Mary’s, the Rev. Jill Beimdiek, who said she organized the vigil because “I just felt like we had to do something” about the divisiveness that has engulfed us. And what the church does first is pray.

I also talked to and listened to what other priests were saying about the election. And to a person, they all expressed unease about the divisions it has created — well, exposed might be a better word, and exacerbated — as well as optimism about the role the church could play today and in the days, weeks and months to come.

The Rev. Jill Jones told me she had been thinking mostly about the problems facing our nation’s leaders — and how the church can help heal our nation’s politics — until another priest talked about the election season in terms of brokenness and pain. And suddenly it clicked: Healing brokenness, easing pain is what the church is called to do.

Rev. Jones’ husband, Tim, the dean of Columbia’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, planned to devote his Sunday homily to the aftermath of the election, telling parishioners that “there is reason to hope, because God’s in charge, but there’s also lots of work to do.” On Tuesday, he’s offering special Election Day intercessory prayers at the 8 a.m. Morning Prayer and 5:30 p.m. Evening Prayer liturgies.

The church is ‘a place of refuge, where we can pull away from all this,’ and the Eucharist reminds us to ‘seek the face of Jesus in our fellow man.’

Fr James F Lyon IV

My own rector, the Rev. James F. Lyon IV, told me he used to schedule a special Election Day Mass when he was rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in York, but that he hadn’t felt the need to do that since he came to the Church of the Good Shepherd in downtown Columbia 25 years ago.

But after hearing “a number of people in recent weeks say they’re so deeply troubled by this election,” it seemed obvious that he needed to offer a special Mass on Tuesday, and open our chapel all day for private prayer and Eucharistic adoration.

His goal: “to give people an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the issues facing this nation, and apply the values of their faith to the decisions they will make in the voting booth.” The church, he said, “is a place of refuge, where we can pull away from all this,” and the Eucharist reminds us to “seek the face of Jesus in our fellow man.”

So on Tuesday morning, I will drive past my polling place and begin my day at 8 o’clock Mass, where we will pray a special intercessory prayer for our leaders and our people and our unity.

I won’t be praying for guidance, since I’ve decided between the two awful choices for president and made my much more comfortable decisions about the rest of the races on the ballot. I will pray for healing for our nation and for our families and for so many relationships that have been strained by this election season — and that I fear will be strained even further once the results are in.

I hope you will join me — if not at our Mass, then at your own church, or in your home, or even as you wait in line to vote. And if you’ve already voted by the time you read this, that’s OK. Our nation still needs your prayers.

Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at cscoppe@thestate.com or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.

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