Annual Conference moderator David Shumate along with the leaders of the Annual Conference agencies and the Council of District Executives is urging every congregation and every member of the Church of the Brethren to set aside May 24-31 as a "Season of Prayer and Fasting" on behalf of the denomination in particular and the wider church and society in general.
Shumate in a letter sent out earlier this month, identified the past few months as "difficult for the world economy in general" and seriously affecting the church. "Staff reductions have taken place," he wrote. "Giving has decreased significantly in some areas. Investments have been frozen or not as productive. Pastoral programs have been reduced. Pensions for retired pastors and church workers are facing a reduction in the assumption rate."
In the face of these difficulties, he wrote in part, "the first reaction to difficulty and trouble is to devote ourselves to prayer and fasting." Shumate quoted from Nehemiah 1:4, a prophet he identified as a model for the church in engaging in "two of the most effective spiritual disciplines in the Hebrew tradition, prayer and fasting. As he did so, a new vision from God began to become clear."
The letter encouragec the placement of the following suggestions for prayer and fasting in worship bulletins on Sunday, May 24, and the placing of this information on church bulletin boards and websites. "Make a special effort to draw attention to them during your worship services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings," Shumate requested.
Following are daily themes and scriptures for May 24-31:
- May 24: Theme "Deeply Rooted," Psalm 1(3). Prayer emphases: Acknowledge God’s goodness, power, and abundant love for all. Give thanks for God’s steadfast love for the Church of the Brethren over the past 300 years. Give thanks for the faithfulness of Brethren leaders, past and present.
- May 25: "You will be my witnesses," Acts 1:1-10(8). Prayer emphases: Give thanks for the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board as it leads our denomination in service and mission to a hurting world. Pray for the church as it reaches out to individuals and communities near and far with the healing love and power of the gospel. Give thanks for those servants of the church who have recently lost their employment. May they receive wisdom and guidance as they discern God’s will for their life and ministry. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance for all who serve in positions of leadership within the Church of the Brethren.
- May 26: "Together," Acts 2:42-47(44-45). Prayer emphases: Give thanks for the ministry of Brethren Benefit Trust and the challenge it gives to us to care for the needs of the church and for the needs of one another. Pray that your congregation might be attuned to the needs of persons in your community who may be struggling during these difficult economic times. Ask God to help you to find ways to work to strengthen relationships within your congregation, your district and the wider church.
- May 27: "Messengers of Reconciliation," 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. Prayer emphases: Give thanks for the ministry of On Earth Peace and Christ’s vision peace and reconciliation that it holds before us. Pray for a greater awareness of our need for reconciliation within our families, our congregations, our communities and our world.
- May 28: "Many Gifts, One Spirit," 1 Corinthians 12:4-11(4-6). Prayer emphases: Give thanks for the ministry of Bethany Theological Seminary as it prepares pastors and leaders for the church. Give thanks for God’s gifts of knowledge. Ask God to give you wisdom as you cultivate this gift within yourself so that you will use it for "the glory of God and my neighbor’s good."
- May 29: "Many Parts, One Body," 1 Corinthians 12:12-20(12-13). Prayer emphases: Praise God for the many men and women who serve Christ and the church faithfully in our districts and congregations. Pray for God’s wisdom and direction for our pastors and district leaders as they lead us during these challenging times. Pray for a greater awareness of our connectedness and dependence upon one another as members of the Body of Christ.
- May 30: "The Old Has Gone; the New Has Come," 2 Corinthians 5:16-21(17). Prayer emphases: Give thanks for the ministry of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference as it facilitates the work of the church. Ask for God’s guidance and inspiration for our Moderator and officers who lead the conference. Pray for the gathering of the community of faith on June 26-30 in San Diego. Ask God to show you what new thing He is creating in your life and in the life of the church today.
- May 31--Pentecost Sunday: "Renewal of the Spirit," Acts 2:1-21(18). Prayer emphases: Give thanks for your faith community and its impact upon your life and spiritual growth as a disciple of Christ. Pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on all God’s people as they worship today. Pray for the leading of the Spirit as the Church of the Brethren and its congregations look to the future.