Category Archives: Liturgy

The Space Between Life and Death

Beeswax Pillar Candle-efa4ce661080a75cd5d4a17ef717f5e4

Dear Readers,

What do you do, when you receive the news that a loved one hovers between life and death?

I open the Book of Common Prayer [BCP]:  It contains Scripture, for such a painful time as this.  In fact, Scripture represents eighty percent of the content of the BCP.  Scripture solidly informs the Creeds, Prayers, Statements of Faith, and Historic Documents.

Preserved through the centuries, the Book of Common Prayer bestows a benediction upon us, when prayer is exceedingly difficult.   The Book of Common Prayer offers clarity and direction to the anxious and grieving mind.  The carefully composed words of the prayers and the voices of the faithful who have come before us, impart to us strength, confidence, and trust in the Triune God.

In the Book of Common Prayer, we join our voices with all those who, through the ages and generations, have turned to the Book of Common Prayer in times of deepest grief and sorrow.

Over the past decades, since a friend first introduced to me the  Book of Common Prayer, the prayers have offered comfort and solace.  Below this meditation, I have copied the section of the BCP entitled, “Prayers for the Sick.”  []

Only a thin, translucent sheet of fine paper separates “Prayers for the Sick” and  “Ministration at the Time of Death.”  


John Donne contemplated the translucent space between life and death, in his Holy Sonnet Ten:

Holy Sonnets: Death, Be Not Proud


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Through the long, dark night of vigil, sitting with my father, in 2006, I held in my hands the Book of Common Prayer and wondered, “Tomorrow, will it be time to turn the page?”

It was an honor for me to be present with my father, as he drew his last breath. Together, my sister, husband, and son gathered around his bed. I turned the page in the Book of Common Prayer and we prayed the prayers. We sang the hymns from the Anglican Hymnbook, which I had previously chosen. As generations of families had done before us, we ushered our loved one into the perpetual light of eternal life.

“One short sleep, we wake eternally.”

The space between life and death is translucent.

Keep these prayers with you, if you are praying for a loved one. If you are able to be present, bring these prayers [and hymns] to the Vigil. Send [email or snail mail] these prayers to those who are praying for their loved one.

Coram Deo,


Prayers for the Sick 

From the Book of Common Prayer

For a Sick Person

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired.

Look upon him/her with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him/her with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him/her from the temptations of the enemy; and give him/her patience under his/her affliction.  In thy good time, restore him/her to health, and enable him/her to lead the residue of his/her life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he/she may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Recovery from Sickness

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers:  Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant N. the help of your power, that his/her sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity:  Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For a Sick Child

Heavenly Father, watch with us over your child N., and grant that he may be restored to that perfect health which it is yours alone to give; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom:  We commend to your loving care this child N.  Relieve his pain,

guard him from all danger, restore to him your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise him up to a life of service to you.  Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name’s sake.  Amen.

 Before an Operation

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your servant N. in his suffering, and bless the means made use of for his cure. Fill his heart with confidence that, though at times he may be afraid, he yet may put his trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or this

Strengthen your servant N., O God, to do what he has to do and bear what he has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, he may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Strength and Confidence

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant N., and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened in his weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For the Sanctification of Illness

Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of your servant N., that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith and seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may live with you in everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Health of Body and Soul

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

For Doctors and Nurses

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life‑giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Thanksgiving for a Beginning of Recovery

O Lord, your compassions never fail and your mercies are new every morning:  We give you thanks for giving our brother (sister) N. both relief from pain and hope of health

renewed.  Continue in him, we pray, the good work you have begun; that he, daily increasing in bodily strength, and rejoicing in your goodness, may so order his life and conduct that he may always think and do those things that please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers for use by a Sick Person

For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In Pain

Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will:  Be near me in my time of weakness and pain;

sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.

For Sleep

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

Ministration at the Time of Death

When a person is near death, the Minister of the Congregation should be notified, in order that the ministrations of the Church may be provided. 

A Prayer for a Person near Death

Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him/her with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany at the Time of Death

When possible, it is desirable that members of the family and friends come together to join in the Litany.

God the Father,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Son,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Holy Spirit,

Have mercy on your servant.

Holy Trinity, one God,

Have mercy on your servant.

From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by your precious Death and Burial,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may please you to deliver the soul of your servant from the power of evil, and from eternal death,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you mercifully to pardon all his/her sins,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to grant him/her a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give him/her joy and gladness in your kingdom, with your saints in light,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Jesus, Lamb of God:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, bearer of our sins:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, redeemer of the world:

Give him/her your peace.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Officiant and People:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The Officiant says this Collect:

Let us pray.

Deliver your servant, N., O Sovereign Lord Christ, from all evil, and set him/her free from every bond; that he/she may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations; where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Commendation at the Time of Death

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;

In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;

In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;

In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you;

May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

A Commendatory Prayer

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant N.  Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.

May his/her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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What Is the Eucharist?



Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013

At St. Peter’s Anglican Church Tallahassee:
The penitential service of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 13, and encompasses the forty days before Easter [March 31.]

Ash Wednesday Services with the Imposition of Ashes will be held at 12:10 and 7:00 pm on the 13th.  There will be no Wednesday night dinner or classes that evening.

 Dear Readers: 

Here is a Lenten meditation, in the form of a sermon, by the Rev. Dr. Michael Petty.

This sermon is a concise yet deeply theological reflection on the meaning of the Last Supper and the Eucharist.

Click here: “What Is the Eucharist?”  to listen to the sermon.

Or, click here:  


Coram Deo,


The text is Luke 22.14-23: [English Standard Version]

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.

15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 

16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 

17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 

18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.


The Rev. Dr. Michael Petty
St. Peter’s Anglican Church []
Fr. Michael Petty is a native of West Virginia and grew up in Houston.  He was educated at Austin College (B.A.) and Vanderbilt University (M.Div., M.A., Ph.D.)
During his over twenty years of ordained ministry, he has served a large suburban congregation, a campus ministry at a medical school, and a hospital chaplaincy.
He has served as Associate Rector for Adult Education,  since St. Peter’s was founded in 2005.
In addition to pastoral ministry, Fr. Petty has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University), Nashotah House Theological Seminary and the Center for Biblical Studies in Tallahassee.
He is the author of  A Faith That Loves the Earth: The Ecological Theology of Karl Rahner, published by the University Press of America.
He is married to Sara Clausen and they have a son, Graham.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes: 1

Benjamin and Lucy:  Christmas Day 2011

Dear Readers,

After I wrote this blog entry:  Magnolia Blossoms, Canopy Roads, and Spanish Moss: Part 1, my  dear friend, Carole, came over to my home to visit.  She and I share the joy of grand-mothering Benjamin and Lucy.  In the midst of our conversations, I said, “Have Mercy!” — one of my favorite expressions.

Now, as you know, “Little pitchers have big ears:”  

Benjamin overheard our conversation.  My brief phrase evidently sounded familiar to him.  He looked up at me, with his soft, liquid, brown eyes and was silent for just a second.   Then, with complete sincerity and reverence, he said slowly, softly, and distinctly: “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.” 

Carole and I silently looked down at Benjamin and then to each other.  Our three-year old grandson had just admonished me.


That prayer of unison response, “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer,”  is part of the Liturgy of the Historic and Ancient Church.

Benjamin recognized the prayer —  from participating in the Catholic Liturgy with his family.

Every Sunday morning in the Sanctuary, in the Anglican Tradition, the congregation kneels and we prepare to enter into “Common Prayer.” 

It is a holy moment, as we prepare to “lift our voices, with angels, and with archangels, and with all the company of heaven . . .  ”  

And in that moment, heaven and earth will intersect.

This is the moment during which I am the most grateful for the Liturgy, meaning, “the work of the people.”  

Our collective prayers, beautifully and masterfully composed long ago, are borne aloft, as the incense is borne aloft, offering a pleasing aroma to the Trinity.

The global and historical prayers will sweep over the sacred space and enfold my small voice, as a mighty, crashing wave of the vast ocean might gather up a piece of sea glass.

[Form IV: Book of Common Prayer, page 388]:

Let us pray for the church and for the world.  Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly, in the service of others, and to your honor and glory.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 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.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


“And a little child will lead them . . . “

Benjamin does not realize that he has exposed the thoughtless attitude of my mind, by noticing and commenting upon my careless speech.

He has no idea that he is challenging me to faithfully apply the truth that I so fervently desire to impart to him, that of The Great Shema of the Hebrew Scriptures:  

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“ Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as  frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Benjamin reminds me:  I can never impart that which I do not first possess.

“The mouth speaks from that which fills the heart:”  

So, it is fruitless to ask Benjamin to ignore my words, for my words surely reflect the condition of my innermost being.

My grandchildren, so eager to learn, watching and listening so closely, will be a constant motivation for me to model for them a life of integrity.

I am grateful for their assistance, as I resist complacency in “the long obedience in the same direction.”

And now, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and Redeemer.”  Amen, amen.

Coram Deo,



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Holy Week

Giotto, The Arena Chapel Frescoes: Palm Sunday


As in all the synoptic gospels, the people spread their clothes out before Jesus as He approaches Jerusalem, a gate of which is shown on the right. Giotto here shows them removing their clothes in order to do so, although the gospels do not include this detail. As in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, others cut branches from the trees to strew in His path. As in John, they are specifically palm trees and a branch is being used, by the second figure to the right of the colt, to acclaim Jesus. The haloed figures following Jesus are, of course, the apostles.
More of Palm Sunday
Source: Web Gallery of Art

Holy Week:  Why We Do the Things We Do,

by Father Eric Dudley, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida

Palm Sunday:

Palm Sunday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.  As with all Liturgical Seasons, our objective is to trace the steps of Jesus, that our lives might be marked by His.  Palm Sunday traces his steps, as He entered Jerusalem for the last time.  We begin outside of the church [as He began outside of Jerusalem], where we bless the palms.  We joyously process into the church, where we celebrate the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  The people waved palm branches, as they shouted, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Because the jubilant waving of fronds is soon followed by betrayal, it is our custom to save the palm crosses we receive on Palm Sunday and return them to the church before the next Ash Wednesday [the first day of Lent] so that they might be burned and ground into the ash that is placed on our foreheads.
Opportunities for private Confession with a priest are available the first three days of Holy Week.  As we follow the steps of Jesus toward the Cross, we come face to face with our own betrayal of the Lord.  Reconciliation of a Penitent [page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer] is the form we use for private Confession.  The confession is made in the privacy of a prayer room and the priest is committed to maintaining utter confidentiality.  [We fully realize that Confession with a priest is not necessary to know the forgiveness of God. It is just as legitimate to kneel by your bed and offer your confessions. However, for some it is enormously powerful and cathartic to be able to say aloud to another human being the particular things that reflect that person’s separation from God and to hear a priest say aloud to those particular things, God has forgiven them!]
Maundy Thursday
The name Maundy Thursday comes from a Latin word, Mandatum, which means command.  This is the day that commemorates the Last Supper in the Upper Room, where Jesus commanded the disciples to love one another and then showed them an example of that love, by washing their feet.  Because this day commemorates the first Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist is the centerpiece of the Liturgy.  After communion, participants have the opportunity to have their feet washed, and/or wash someone else’s feet, downstairs in the Parish Hall.  [This takes place during Communion, so that people are coming and going downstairs, while Communion is happening upstairs.  This Washing of Feet is a very simple and solemn exercise, which is guided by a Verger in the Parish Hall.

After the Eucharist, the Sacrament is reserved:  [all the bread, left over from Communion, representing the Living Presence of our Lord, is taken from us and placed on an Altar in the Parish Hall, which has been set up as a Chapel] and the Altar in the Sanctuary is stripped.  The Stripping of the Altar can be a very moving event, as a solitary priest removes everything beautiful from the Sanctuary [the area around the Altar] and then removes his own vestments.  This process represents the stripping of our Lord, as he was prepared for Crucifixion.  The Altar is left bare, until Easter Day.  After the service, a Vigil is kept, in the Parish Hall, where the reserved Sacrament remains on the Altar:  [a representation of the disciples waiting with the Lord in Gethsemane.]  Some wait for ten minutes and some wait for the remainder of the evening.  However long one is able to wait, this is a lovely time for quiet meditation.  A priest enters the Parish Hall at midnight, consumes what is left of the sacrament, and extinguishes the candles.  Good Friday has begun.
Good Friday:
On Good Friday, there is a simple service [one at Noon and one at 7.00 PM], where the Passion Gospel is read and a large wooden Cross is processed.  The Cross is placed at the Altar and the clergy and congregation kneel, in silent veneration.  Veneration is followed by a series of prayers and said anthems, which offer our confessions and give thanks for the sacrificial love of God in Christ.  The Cross is draped in black and we depart.
Easter Day:
The joy of Easter Day is startling, after the solemn observances of Holy Week.  The Lord is Risen and the church is full of flowers, bells, trumpets, and Allelluias!  This is the central Feast of the Church:  the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the day that gives meaning to all the other days and we pull out all the stops!

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