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A Ministry of Prayer at St. Matthew’s, Enosburg Falls

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler invited members of St. Matthew’s,  Enosburg Falls to write the Prayers of the People. Edith (Dinny) Hawksworth accepted the invitation, and wrote the prayers offered by the congregation when Bishop Shannon made her first visit to the parish for the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 2020. When Bishop Shannon returned to St. Matthew’s this past February, she learned that Dinny Hawksworth had once again written the prayers.

“It is a special gift to be able to reflect on the needs of your community and the wider world and then put your hopes and concerns into prayerful language that can be offered at the liturgy,” Bishop Shannon said.  “I was moved by Dinny’s commitment to this work, and by the empathy and eloquence of her prayers.”

Hawksworth is among a group of members who write the Prayers of the People, serve as lectors, or lead morning prayer on the two Sundays each month when St. Matthew’s does not celebrate the Eucharist. Prayer and what she calls the “prayerful service” she provided as a hospice nurse have long been part of her life, Hawksworth says, beginning with memories of kneeling at her bedside to pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” and continuing today with her daily prayers for children and grandchildren.

“I have no formula for praying but a daily practice that is hard to explain to others because of the intimate nature of that practice,” she says.

In preparing to write the Prayers of the People, Hawksworth starts with the format in the Book of Common Prayer, but taking liberties, “because I do watch the news.” Her participation in Sacred Ground, a video-based series on race and faith from the Episcopal Church, taken early in the pandemic, increased her desire to include the “big issues that confront us as a country,” in the prayers she writes.

Looking at the scripture appointed for the day, Hawksworth reflects on what she has read in the local paper and the national news, thinks about the parish and those beyond its bounds who are ill, and remembers those who have been living at Brookhaven School, a local center providing services to boys who have been neglected and abused.

“Prayer is natural for me,” Hawksworth says, and when prayer becomes a habit, “it just comes back to you as a solace.”

Prayer at St. Matthews is taking a variety of forms within the congregation and its members, both those who worship in person and those who join online from around the country. The congregation has begun offering a midweek ‘quiet time’ from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. recently. In addition, members drive migrant workers to medical appointments and care for local hiking trails.

Hawksworth is open to talking with others who may feel called to write prayers for worship. “Find a place of stillness in yourself,” she says, “and be open to whatever comes to mind in the quiet time you reserve for your own solace.”

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