FROM BIRDS TO PRAYERS

Go in peace, go in love,
Go with blessings from above.
Help a friend, say a prayer
For God’s children, everywhere.
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.
            - traditional Choral Blessing
 
For many, many years, Lower Division convocations have ended with this choral blessing; a prayer that sends us out as ambassadors of God’s love. This blessing is bookended by our school prayer, which begins each of those gatherings. Our Chaplain’s Council also offers the weekly prayer provided by the National Association of Episcopal Schools. That group also keeps the spiritual discipline of praying for all students and faculty members on campus, by name, each and every week. Needless to say, prayer is a vital aspect of life in the division.
 
A natural next spiritual step was to figure out a way to collect, and then offer up in prayer, specific intentions and needs of our people. With help from our 5th-grade Chaplain’s Council, we conceived turning a couple of bird houses into prayer houses, outfitting them to reflect the Berkeley community, and installing them in strategic locations throughout the division. Strips of paper are provided to write down whatever is on the hearts of our people. They are free to remain anonymous, if so desired, and all are welcome to use these prayer houses, regardless of faith tradition or affiliation.
 
The first of the prayer houses, now situated in Rudolph Library, was Blessed in convocation on Tuesday. The second will be Blessed on Monday and placed in the Casper Piazza in the Seivold Center for Early Childhood Education.
 
As of Thursday afternoon, this first prayer house was already filled to the brim! More than 85 requests have been made, from healing to family members to surgeries to pets to life at school. My heart is warmed to know that our youngest have a safe space, along with the courage, to reach out to God in so many ways. My prayer for them is ongoing strength and faithfulness to continue to do so. As one colleague reflected on the overwhelming response, she was quick to note, “If you build it, they will come.” Thanks be to God.
 
Collecting the Prayers of the People is a practice with deep roots in our Episcopal tradition. The Book of Common Prayer commends the gathered to do so whenever coming together, offering six different forms to use. These prayers often begin with broad strokes, followed by silence to give space for particular intentions to be lifted up. A handful of my favorite prompts are offered below.
 
For the peace of the world, that a spirit of respect and forbearance may grow among nations and peoples, we pray to you, O Lord.
 
For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer; for refugees, prisoners, and all who are in danger; that they may be relieved and protected, we pray to you, O Lord.
 
For all people in their daily life and work; For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone.
 
We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.
 
May the youngest among us continue to inspire in such profound ways. And may we follow their lead, embracing hope and courage in all of our days.
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Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,380 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.