The Dean’s Corner: Praying Shapes Believing

The Dean’s Corner

Praying Shapes Believing

If you go into the office of study of a Lutheran scholar or a Presbyterian minister, you’re likely to find, lining the shelves, the defining works of the theological mind that shaped the movement. Or perhaps in conversation with a Roman Catholic priest you will learn of theologians and bishops who have shaped the church and defined “what we believe.” Many of these texts align with the faith and practices of The Episcopal church, and of course some do not, but in any church structure there’s value in having texts that give clear shape to what’s considered important.

The Episcopal Church has a rich history of scholarship and study as well as some clear guidelines about how we hold and practice our faith, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a definitive set of texts that lay out, in academic formularies, “what we believe.” I like to joke that unlike our sister churches who can point to a singular scholar or saint, there is no such thing as “The Collected Works of Episcopus.”  That’s because what we believe is ultimately captured in the prayers and practices of our shared worship…it is found in our Common Prayer. Simply put, the Book of Common Prayer is our defining text: it’s both the product of centuries of scholarship and a manual for worshipping God in ways that change us and prepare us to serve the world.

Yet it, too, is evolving…and has been in a process of transformation for centuries. Scholarship changes. Cultures change. Pandemics come and disrupt everything we thought we knew.  Amid change we seek sources of transformation and continuity that honor what is changing while rooting us in faith and practices that endure.  Our wider church is in a process of revising the prayer book: we are retaining the core theological orientation of the 1979 book (which was itself revolutionary) while asking how we can expand our language for God, how we can explore creation care, and how we can take advantage of the responsiveness and creativity of the digital moment…meaning, perhaps the “prayer book” is ready to be something more than just a book!

I hope you’ll mark your calendars for the Sundays from Sept. 19-Oct. 31, as we gather in small groups to explore our evolving tradition while reflecting on the values and practices that are essential to Trinity Cathedral.  Will we talk about things other than worship? Of course: in The Episcopal Church, everything flows from our worship and so, in so many ways, all parts of our lives meet in the sanctuary.

So, let’s do exactly that: let’s meet in the sanctuary. Of course, we will also have small groups that meet online that will interact with the in-person gathering – as we know, these days the sanctuary is bigger than just the physical space. I hope you’ll keep this rich conversation in your prayers, and that you’ll join us for as many Sundays as possible.


The Very Rev. Bernard J Owens