By March 27, 2020

Handle with Prayer

Morning and night and at all points in between, your church is here for you — and with you — in prayer. Choose from a variety of options and styles of prayer during this uncertain time with options including making a prayer request any time of the day or night, or join our pastors in any or all of the three prayer options:

 Daily Devotional with Re. Lance Marshall

Every morning Rev. Lance Marshall hosts a prayer group and daily devotional from 9:00-9:15 via Zoom, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live. Learn more at

Evening Prayer Room with Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez

To actively respond — and to invite others to do the same — to the prayer requests that come in throughout the day — along with your personal prayer requests you bring to the room each evening,  Zhenya will host a special come and go (or come and stay!) Zoom Prayer Room 9:00 – 9:30 pm each evening. This will be a sacred space to which all are invited and welcome to bring any prayer concerns as well as to join Zhenya in prayer for all who have requested prayers that day.

Centering Prayer with Dr. Len Delony

Thomas Merton, writer, theologian, and scholar of comparative religion, described contemplative prayer as prayer “centered entirely on the presence of God.”  With practice, this ancient style of prayer is said by many to be helpful in becoming more present and open to God. People who love Centering Prayer will be quick to tell you what while it does not replace other prayer, it does beckon a calming silence and a deeper connection to God.

[Len, can you give me a quote here about why you think this practice is especially important now, in these times, why you like to lead this group at First Church, and what you think people get out of it, i.e. “What’s in it for me?” — and why it’s worth the effort]

What can you expect when you first try Centering Prayer?

Are there any pro tips you can offer?


How long have you been leading centering prayer?

How long at our church?

Where did you get your DMIN?

How do you do Centering Prayer?

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
  3. When engaged with your thoughts — body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections — return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

A COVID Devotional by Linda Duncan

A short while ago, when the world was very different, I signed up to do the devotional for today, March 22, 2020. Somehow, I felt called to do the devotional today, even though we’re not meeting. It’s probably just guilt, but it feels more like a response to missing normalcy, but, really, I’m just missing y’all and wanting to reach out in whatever way possible. Your hardworking President, Karen Erickson was talking about that very thing last week—the need to stay connected. And, she has some ideas about how we might do that, so please check in with the Facebook page, check your email for messages, and check with one another during this unprecedented time of social distancing. Here’s my devotional.

Devotional on COVID-19

As you may remember, I told the class a short while ago that I had signed up for Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez’s Bible challenge. I made that announcement to the class in order to have some accountability, because I’d be embarrassed to admit if I didn’t follow through. I’m happy to report that I am reading the Bible faithfully every day, although not exactly like Zhenya’s plan. She schedules a daily reading from the Old Testament and then from the New Testament. It’s all done in chronological order, but still jumping from Old to New. Honestly, my head was spinning, trying to do that. My brain craves a more linear approach, I guess. Anyway, I decided to just read the Bible chronologically, so, I’m just reading the Old Testament right now. Please forgive me, Zhenya.

I’m now in First Samuel, the ninth book in the Old Testament. I’ve read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and then 1 Samuel. You may recall that, after the origin story of Genesis, these chapters ultimately deal with the Israelites’ exile in slavery in Egypt; their escape from that to wandering in the desert for 40 years, with Moses at the helm. They finally were led into the Promised land by Joshua, with the victory at Jericho. The book of Judges covers the time between that battle and the establishment of a kingdom in the Books of Samuel, I think. So, here we are, finally in the Promised Land, trying to build a kingdom. We’ve met all the Biblical heroes you’ve ever heard of, from Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and now we’re meeting David, of David and Goliath fame. Through all these chapters there’s one lesson that stands out to me, more than any other, and here it is:

 People just don’t learn their lesson. They will not obey, even though their recent histories should tell them what will happen if they don’t obey the Lord. Time and time again, God becomes angry with his chosen people because they don’t listen to him or his appointed servant, whether that be Moses, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, etc.

“How do they disobey, Linda?”, you may ask. They disobey by worshiping other gods, is what appears to me to happen, repeatedly. They’ll come through some scrape, some battle, gain victory, then get comfortable and go back to their old ways. We’re not told exactly what else they did, or given any explanation for their disobedience, but, because I think we would probably be disobedient, too, I think I understand it a little.

 They disobey because they’re afraid. “What are they afraid of, Linda?,” you may ask. They’re afraid things won’t work out, basically. They feel insecure and they revert to worshiping other gods. I’m not sure they are really turning against God. Maybe they just wanted to buy a little insurance by worshiping other deities. “What can it hurt?” they may have asked themselves. So, how did they disobey, or fail God?

 Their main failing was they lost faith. I see a corollary with the loss of faith back then in the way we respond to the challenges of COVID-19, in Questioning. As I pay attention to my own internal responses to all that is going on, I find myself asking questions like these:

What’s going to happen?

Am I going to be okay?

Are people I love going to be okay?

What’s going to happen to our country?

In other words, I’m expressing doubt, not faith. It’s completely normal to worry. We’d be abnormal not to be asking some of those questions. I’ll try to explain what to do about that in a minute.

Another way we express doubt, not faith:

Hoarding. I’m not sure how many people have hoarded anything. There just may be serious shortages of everything. I just don’t know. But, hoarding would be a lack of faith in that it says “I want to have stuff. I want to be sure I have stuff, a lot of stuff. I don’t trust that I will have enough, so I’m making sure, even if I’m taking away from others.”

So, maybe the best thing we can do right now is to have faith. We must take a deep breath and find our power and hope in faith. A statement of faith would look something like:

I, or we, will get through this. There may be consequences that we don’t like, but, ultimately, we will get through it.

And, we will get through it,

  • First, by keeping the faith with God. By believing that God stands with us in the fight.
  • Second, we will get through it together, which is ultimately one of the ways God helps us. We have one another because of God’s intervention in our lives. I have the friends I have because of the spirit of God working in my life. Our togetherness is vital right now. We need one another for support, for connection, for reassurance, to laugh sometimes, and, yes, to cry, too.
  • Third, we will get through it by acting. The right action right now is to do nothing, to stay at home and try to thwart the spread of this disease.

In closing, I’ll share a version of the prayer I’ve shared with you before. Please think of yourself with your head bowed as you read:

Gracious God, we come to you with humble hearts, ever mindful of all we’ve been given. We ask that you help us through this troubled time, in whatever way you deem best, but we need you right now. Because I need you, I further ask these things for all of us.

I ask for wisdom so that I might understand.

I ask for faith so that I might hope.

I ask for strength so that I might endure.

I ask for the empathy that bestows upon me the grace of kindness and compassion for others.

Bestir our hearts with the power of your all-encompassing love so that we may follow your example in all that we do.

Be with us now as we meet uncertain times with the faith that gives us peace. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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