On Saturday evening while I was taking a hot shower, washing off the trail dust from our Holy Hike and the faint smell of fish oil from our afternoon of fishing at the pond, Ecuador was being rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that destroyed 370 buildings in the provincial capital of Manabí and the nearby town of Pedernales, and killed 272 people and injured 2,527 others .
Somehow this news escaped me- overnight and into the morning as we worshipped at St. Paul’s in Wellsboro.
I only learned of this devastating news as I drove south on Sunday afternoon and finally tuned in the news on my car radio.
Pray for the people of Ecuador. For those whom they have lost, for the injured and those still missing, and for the significant restoration ahead.
I was reminded of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that claimed somewhere in the area of 150,000 lives- obviously a much greater toll in number- but no less devastating for the families, each by each, who had lost a father, mother, aunt, brother, child, friend. At the time of the Haiti earthquake, I was the rector of two small churches in CT. We were called to prayer and spent our Lenten season collecting coins in mite boxes decorated to look like bricks to give towards the re-building effort. We also gave in a greater way to Episcopal Relief and Development, knowing that they had the tools to assist in the recovery effort- and that we could trust their application of funds. At a recent House of Bishops meeting, the Bishop Suffragan of Haiti, Oge Beauvoir, assured me that while much reconstruction has taken place, there is still much more to do, and our prayers are still coveted.
Prayer is important. It keeps the center of need in front of us, and cultivates the compassion in our souls. God knows, already, of our prayers before we ask… and God is already “on the job” in Ecuador, in Haiti, and in all places where God’s healing touch is needed… but prayer serves to open us God, allows us to seek the strength to be effective as Christ’s hands in the world, and to connect with our brothers and sisters across the globe through the power of the Holy Spirit in a common language of the heart.
Yesterday, I was at St. Paul’s, Wellsboro, for the final day of the 3-Day Northern Tier Immersion Experience. We had a joyful service that included 9 confirmations, a reception of one individual into the Episcopal Church and a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. We began with the door-knocking ritual and the welcoming of the bishop into the parish community. We sang joyful Easter and Good Shepherd hymns and, for me, it was an honor to celebrate Holy Eucharist at the high marble altar in one of the most beautiful parish churches in our diocese. It is a Louis Comfort Tiffany jewelbox with pine timbers cut from local forests during the lumber hey day in those parts.
The candidates for confirmation included teenagers- many serving as acolytes that day- and adults who were choosing Christ and claiming responsibility for their baptismal vows. Confirmations always thrill me- because at the moment that I lay hands on the heads of the candidates, I feel the Holy Spirit working in and through me and descending upon them, like a great liquid of love, salvation and strength.
We would have prayed for Ecuador, if I’d known.
Along with the prayers for the candidates, calling for a life in grace…
Along with the prayers over the bread and wine, praying elements of the earth into the real presence of Jesus…
As we stood in a beautiful building, surrounded by beauty and craftsmanship and art…
We could have raised our voices together, for healing and hope across the sea.
I am certain that many churches did… and that St. Paul’s will add Ecuador to their long list of intercessions next week.
Loving Lord, we come to you trusting in your mercy and knowing that your steadfast love endures forever. Look with mercy on those who have been harmed or displaced by this disaster. Grant them your strength to meet the days ahead. Allow those who are affected to experience your peace which passes all understanding and new hope in the resurrection. Move in those who are able to give aid, that we may be your hands and heart on the earth. Be with all who offer your assistance; may your Spirit uphold them (as they) face the challenges ahead. Give us the assurance of your presence even in this time so that we can cling to your promise of hope and life shown us through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen.
As we celebrated Holy Eucharist and Confirmation at St. Paul’s yesterday, I reflected in my sermon about the “key words” that marked my growing appreciation for our region of the Northern Tier and her people. The four “key words,” (or phrases) were- Rural Honesty, Passion, Beauty and Inclusion. These themes are expressed in the people that I met this weekend and combine to make for a people already active in God’s healing work of restoration and reconciliation. I am honored and delighted to have spent time together and look forward to my next journey north. (which, actually, will be on Thursday for a clergy council meeting!) Praise God for my Subaru!