“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering; pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake, Amen.”
I read this prayer the other day at my first graveside service here in Newtown, wearing black on a scorching August day. This is one of my favorite prayers from our Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
When I was first ordained – back when I was a UCC minister – I borrowed these words from the Book of Common Prayer to add to my funeral service. There is a dignity and a timelessness – and poetry! – in these old prayers that beckoned to me, even then; long before I sought Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church.
‘Keep watch, dear Lord’ … please, keep watch. We pray for those on the Gulf Coast this week, facing hurricane winds and water. We pray for those in California, facing wildfires. We pray for those killed and maimed by racism, for peaceful protesters hurt by armed vigilantes, for victims of gun violence across our land. ‘Bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted’ … keep watch, we pray.
Heal our nation, God, from our original sin of racism, from this deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. ‘Give thine angels charge over those who sleep.’ Protect medical workers, Holy One; comfort and uphold grieving families. And what of our own fatigue, our own personal struggles and losses and just plain tired-ness of it all??
‘Give rest to the weary.’ I pray each of you are finding moments of rest and renewal – and re-creation – as summer hints of autumn. I pray for moments of rest after the upheaval of moving. I rejoice in the blessings of meeting you, gradually, in ways so altered by social distancing! We meet each other in out-of-the-box ways. We delight in the promise of new relationships unfolding; slowly, this time, but surely.
‘Shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake.’ At the heart of this journey of life is our God-planted heart of joy, even in the tumult and pain of this world. Shield your hearts, friends. Guard your spirit, your joy; this will sustain you when the going gets tough, when the storms come and waters rise. How? In prayer and in community.
Seek quiet moments to listen to the still, small voice inside and be nourished. Seek connection – holy connection by sharing your story in community. And turn to the ancient words of our faith. ‘Keep watch, dear Lord,’ keep watch. Amen.
The Rev. andrea castner wyatt
The Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt is honored to accept the call of Trinity Episcopal Church to serve and lead as Rector. She looks forward with joy to walking with the people of Trinity Church, and to discovering with you what Jesus is up to in Newtown, CT. Contact Rev. Andrea at email@example.com or by calling 203-426-9070.