Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Time to go back to Vicar School...?

This morning, I led Morning Prayer for the first time as a Curate.  Now this isn't the first time I've led the Office so it really shouldn't have been a big deal - I pretty much knew what to say and when to say it...after all, we in the Anglican Church do have a pretty much word for word script - what could possibly go wrong?  

Famous last words...

Things we all going along quite swimmingly for a while, I'd managed to get through the opening prayers and canticles, I'd announced which Psalms we were reading and I'd even remembered to pause for a moment at the little dots in between verses.  We had even gotten through the scripture readings - even if the poor man who read the Old Testament lesson did seem *rather* relieved to get to the end of the excerpt from Judges (the bit about tent pegs and temples rather finished him off - he couldn't quite bring himself to say, "this is the word of the Lord" at the end of it!).

But all too soon, we came to the Prayers of Intercession.  Now I'd done my homework, I'd watched the news last night and this morning just to make sure I knew what was going on in the world in case there was anything in particular we needed to pray for.  I'd made a few little mental notes of things that seemed important.  I'd had a look through the various prayer lists we have in church for this purpose to make sure all the requests were covered.  I was all set.  Or so I thought.

In the Anglican Church, we pretty much have a set framework for prayers of intercession, just to keep us on track - so we pray for the world and it's needs, we pray for the worldwide church along with ones closer to home in our own diocese, we pray for areas of need in our country and community, we pray for those who are sick and have asked us to do so and we pray for the families of those people who have died and so are grieving.  Finally, we pray for ourselves and our own needs (just to make sure we don't over inflate our own importance in the grand scheme of things).  It's pretty comprehensive really but also pretty straightforward.  

I got as far as, "let us pray..." and it was gone.  Completely and totally *gone*.  

"Hang on," my brain fluttered, "Do we pray for ourselves first?  Yeah, yeah that sounds like a good idea.  Us first, right ok, onwards!"  

I screwed up in spectacularly entertaining fashion - I mixed up the order, completely forgot the main areas I wanted to remember in prayer, and entirely missed out the little scripted prayers that are always included.  Like for example, after we remember those who have died and their families who mourn them, we always pray: "Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them."  See?  I know it, really I do!  We pray this prayer all the time!  But was it there when I needed it?  Nope.  Gone completely.  So I prayed for the families, stuttered to a stop and then, having no option, ploughed onto other things.  At the end of this section of the prayer time, we always pray (as a way of encouraging those attending to join in and rounding things off) "Merciful Father, accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, amen."  Was that one there?  Nope, away with the fairies.  Gone completely.

But it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective...)

After this, we pray "The Collect" (a set prayer designed to "collect" our thoughts together and join them with others who are also praying at that time) and then we all join together in a reasonably well known prayer.  It's one almost everyone who has ever had any contact at all with the church knows.  It's one even some people who have had very little contact with the church know - especially if, like me, they were of the generation where it was said daily in schools.  Which prayer am I referring to?  Yup, I'm sure you must have guessed it by now:

The Lord's Prayer.

The Prayer that Jesus gave us.

The Prayer that I have been saying since I was around five years old, if not younger.

The Prayer that we say at some point during every single Anglican service.  Every single one.  Never go without.

I know this prayer.  No really, I KNOW this prayer.

No, apparently I don't.

"Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us..." I announce...and my brain stutters to a stop.  Confidence?  What confidence?  I don't have any confidence!  Confidence, Hah!  I skittered around and panicked.

"What comes next?  Brain?!  WHAT comes next????  I pause for a moment of entirely holy reflection.  BRAIN, WHAT COMES NEXT??????"

"Our Father...."  I say, feeling very proud - excellent remembered that bit.  Easy peasy.  No problem, I can DO this.

Nope, false alarm.

Nothing.

Nada.

Complete and total blank.

I do not remember the prayer that Jesus taught us.

Thankfully, the other five people in the room (two of whom were of course experienced, ordained clergy...) clearly did remember the prayer and so started to murmur it.  

"Aaaah!  Excellent!'  My brain muttered to itself.  "Just follow THEIR lead...everything will be fiiiiiiiiine.....

....or perhaps not."

You see, there are generally two well-known versions of The Lord's Prayer - in older language (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name...) and the more contemporary wording which drops the 'Thee's" and "Thou's".  

So at this point, my fluttery little brain decided to take a wholly inclusive approach and it combined the two versions at random and equally alternating intervals.  It spit out a line's worth of "thee's" and "thou's"  then decided that was far too formal an approach so it was much better to take a contemporary stance....then changed it's mind again and returned to the eighteenth century as being clearly FAR preferable.

The poor people trying to pray along with me just about worked out that I was following the old language and joined in accordingly, round about the time my brain decided to have a little swap around, whereupon they gamely returned to the modern version, just about the time I decided I much preferred the other one.  Eventually, we were all managing to say something ever so slightly different and ensuring that we were completely out of time and out of sync.  

Have you ever tried to pray a communal prayer with everyone saying something slightly different, at different times and at a different pace while everyone gainfully tries to listen to everyone one else while also actually remembering to keep praying themselves?  The result is excruciatingly polite chaos.

By the time we got to the end of the Office, I stood to blow out the candles and apologised profusely.  Thankfully, everyone was very gracious about it.  But I think next week, I might just bring a crib sheet...or maybe I need to go back to Vicar School for just a little bit more training.  Was there a module on The Lord's Prayer?  Did I miss it?!  

I mean seriously, what kind of Vicar (or Deacon, or Curate...) forgets The Lord's Prayer?!

Apparently, this one does, and it's only day three.  #facepalm


Are you sure you want to give me that license Mr Registrar?
It might not be the best idea you've had today...


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