Sunday was a big day at the congregation I serve, Fourth Presbyterian Church. It was the first Sunday in the pulpit for our new pastor, Shannon Johnson Kershner. I am not alone in being super excited about Shannon’s arrival and what it will mean for Fourth Church moving forward. The energy on Sunday was palpable.
Sunday also marked the 100 year anniversary of our sanctuary and building on Michigan Avenue. I had the opportunity at one of our morning worship services to offer the prayers of the people. Here is my prayer for our congregation at this important juncture in our life together.
our sacred songs remind us that a thousand years are like a day for you,
yet for us 100 years is a remarkable span of time.
With humility and gratitude
we stand in awe of all that has happened in this sacred place
over the course of a century.
This place has truly been a sanctuary for your children:
a place to seek refuge from the busyness of the city;
a place to hear words of comfort and words of challenge;
a place to celebrate new life;
a place to make sacred vows;
a place to remember loved ones and bear witness to our hope in life eternal;
a place to find rest when there is nowhere else to go;
a place to sing and a place to pray;
a place to seek your presence;
a place to listen in stillness for your voice.
Yet, God, we are reminded on this day
that you do not live in buildings made by human hands.
We are reminded that this grand sanctuary is not the destination of our faith,
but something more like a way station,
a place we come to only to be sent out again,
to share with others the love we find in this place,
the good news we hear in this place,
the light that shines so bright in this place.
We are reminded, O God, that the wood and stone that stands on this corner
is not the church.
We are your church, gracious God,
those of us gathered here now
and the thousands of people
who have passed through this place over a century of ministry.
Here we are, God—
with all our joy and all our sadness,
all our hopes and all our fears,
all our love and all our bitterness,
all our faith and all our doubt,
all our loyalty and all our betrayals,
all our health and all our sickness,
all our boldness and all our meekness—
here we are, God.
So fill us up with your Spirit;
mold us into the likeness of Jesus.
Send us out to be the church in the world.
Send us out to be a light in the city.
Send us out to be the body of Christ.
Send us out to bring your kingdom to life.
It is for this kingdom we now pray,
using the words Jesus taught us.