Call to Prayer for Health Care Workers

I am reflecting this morning on what it will be like when we gather again for worship in a familiar place, with our friends and loved ones, raise our voices in song and praise.  When that day comes and surely it will, though we do not know when, I hope every congregation in the Nashville Episcopal Area will sing the great Wesley Hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive?”

  1. And are we yet alive,
    and see each other’s face?
    Glory and thanks to Jesus give
    for his almighty grace!
  2. Preserved by power divine
    to full salvation here,
    again in Jesus’ praise we join,
    and in his sight appear.
  3. What troubles have we seen,
    what mighty conflicts past,
    fightings without, and fears within,
    since we assembled last!
  4. Yet out of all the Lord
    hath brought us by his love;
    and still he doth his help afford,
    and hides our life above.
  5. Then let us make our boast
    of his redeeming power,
    which saves us to the uttermost,
    till we can sin no more.
  6. Let us take up the cross
    till we the crown obtain,
    and gladly reckon all things loss
    so we may Jesus gain.

The United Methodist Hymnal #553

In the early Methodist movement, this hymn would have been sung on the occasion of annual conference when those gathered would not have seen one another since the previous annual conference.  Circuit Riders would have traveled by horseback and/or canoe to arrive at the site of Annual Conference. I was gifted a gavel set made from the wood from The Asbury-Babb House in Lebanon, TN (circa 1810).  The base is made from heart poplar from a rafter and the gavel is from a chestnut log. I am imagining Francis Asbury presiding at his last conference before his death in 1816. I am imagining the testimonies of circuit riders.  I am imagining them singing heartedly, this great Charles Wesley hymn. The Methodists are singing people.  And when we are together is it a joyous thing.

This hymn, for the early Methodists, was a praise for every “danger, toil and snare” they had overcome. It was a joyous occasion to sing, pray and reflect on all that had transpired in the previous year.

This day, I am imagining what that day will be like in the future, when we again gather and “see each other’s face.” The stanza, “What troubles have we seen?” comes to mind. I pray that God will protect us all from danger and illness.

This morning I am also reflecting on all the healthcare workers who are on the front lines working night and day to help people overcome the virus, COVID-19. Those of us who can stay in the comfort of our own homes are sheltered from those who every day show up to bring healing and hope to all who sustain our healthcare systems across our land. Daily, they come face to face with this virus.

I invite you today at 12 noon and everyday hereafter to stop and say a prayer for our healthcare workers. As we watch and pray for those who are stepping into the fray, we lift up those who stand in the gap for us.  While we wait to be together again, we do our part by physically distancing ourselves so that the curve can be flattened.

Last week, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward reminded me of John Wesley’s instruction on health and wellbeing. Wesley was committed to the spiritual and physical health of the people called Methodist.  This was a central tenet of his teaching, having written a small volume, “Primitive Physic.”  This little volume was a collection of remedies for a number of health concerns.

Bishop Ward writes: The double blessing of physical and spiritual health was – and is – a central dimension of Methodist ministry. Like our spiritual forebearers, we are convinced that God wants to give us both inward and outward health. Realizing that the least resourced people of his time were without medical care, he recorded his reflection: “At length I thought of a kind of desperate expedient. I will prepare and give them physick myself.” 

 Wesley told his assistants in each region — basically, lay preachers — to leave two books in every home for spiritual and physical care: “The Christian’s Pattern,” his abridgment of Thomas à Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” and “Primitive Physick.”[1]

In this season of disruption, when we are asked to do our part in flattening the curve, be reminded of our need for spiritual and physical wellbeing. It is my deep desire for each of you to find your spirit renewed and your body strengthened through this season.

The leaders of the Nashville Episcopal Area are finding amazing pathways to stay connected. Thanks be to God.

Please pray for our health care leaders, those who are standing in the gap to bring health and healing to our communities.

I offer this blessing to you this day:

               Glory to God

               Whose power working in us

               Can do abundantly far more

               than we can think or ask or imagine.

               Glory to God in the Church and in

               Christ Jesus to all generations. Amen.

Be safe and be well.

Bishop M



[1] Randy Maddox: John Wesley says, ‘Take care of yourself’ :Faith and Leadership, Duke University.