Beloved in Christ,
For some years now, one of my regular petitions in prayer has been for an unmistakable and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on and in the Diocese of Springfield–indeed, a disruptive outpouring, one that might tempt us to regret having asked for it in the first place! I continue to offer that prayer, and I know many have joined me.
Revival cannot be confected. There is no recipe or formula that will make it happen. The Holy Spirit of God is sovereign. However, those who have studied revivals in retrospect uniformly report that a revival is invariably preceded by a season of concerted prayer on the part of God’s people. We cannot control the Holy Spirit and produce revival-on-demand. But we can decide how and when we pray, and what we ask for in our prayers.
A few weeks ago, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced an initiative that they characterized as a “wave of prayer” for the evangelization of England, focused on the ten days between the feast of Our Lord’s Ascension (May 5) and the Day of Pentecost (May 15). This news immediately and compellingly struck a chord in my heart. After holding this concern in prayer, and then consulting an ad hoc and informal Council of Advice made up of about a dozen clergy and lay leaders, I am inviting the baptized faithful of the Diocese of Springfield to join me in our own “wave of prayer” for the evangelization of central and southern Illinois, also focused on the period between Ascension and Pentecost. Both Matthew and Mark tells us of an occasion when Jesus looked out on the crowd coming toward him and “had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Our first concern as we pray for revival and evangelization is that we be given hearts that beat in sync with the heart of Jesus, that we look out on the people among whom we live in the cities, towns, campuses, and rural communities of this diocese and be moved with the same compassion that moves Jesus.
You may have heard the expression novena. It doesn’t enjoy wide popularity in Anglican vocabulary, but it’s exactly what we’re talking about here–a nine-day period of concentrated prayer focused on a particular intercessory concern. While various Christian communities (parishes, dioceses, religious orders, schools) observe novenas at different times of year, the historical origin of the practice lies precisely in the time between Ascension and Pentecost, as we wait with the disciples in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
My hope is that every Eucharistic Community in the diocese will have a public celebration of Ascension on May 5 (or the evening of the 4th), either individually or in cooperation with others on a regional or deanery basis. I realize this will be challenging for some, but I nonetheless ask you to make it a priority, and can virtually promise that you will be blessed in doing so. My further hope is that some or all of the liturgical materials that my office will shortly distribute to clergy (and in some cases, laity) in charge of congregations will be widely used. These include a Collect, a form for the Prayers of the People, a Eucharistic Prayer, and devotional forms for use by individuals, families, and small groups.
I am greatly encouraged by much of what I see already happening in several parts of the diocese. The Spirit is already loose among us! What I am proposing here is not some sort of desperate measure. Rather, it is a petition that the Holy Spirit enable us to crank up the volume on a song that we are already singing. Will you add your voice to this chorus?
Faithfully in Christ Jesus,