By Rev. Andreas Thiel
“I arise today…” so begins one of the most beloved of Celtic prayers, known to many Christians as St. Patrick’s Breastplate. For the 145 people who gathered at our cathedral in London for the Bishop of Huron’s 2016 Prayer Conference, these words, attributed to St. Patrick, would serve as a touchstone for the remainder of the day.
Organized by our Diocesan Anglican Fellowship of Prayer (Rev. Val Kenyon, AFP Diocesan Rep), this year’s conference featured guest speaker Bishop Barry Clarke (Bishop-in-Charge and Dean of Huron) in an exploration of the Celtic way of prayer, particularly the manner in which Celtic spirituality celebrates not only God’s good creation, but also the ordinary, everyday facets of daily living. Bishop Barry showed how ancient Celtic prayers acknowledge the role of humans as “stewards of creation” rather than as “masters over creation.” It’s no surprise that such an understanding resonates with society’s realization that we are intimately tied to the environment around us. Ancient Celtic prayers continue to speak to us today, as we grapple with issues such as pollution and sustainability. The afternoon of the conference also featured workshops: Celtic Spirituality and Nature (Bishop Clarke), Everyday Prayers (Rev. Kim Metelka) and Celtic Art and Symbol (Libi Clifford).
One of the highlights of the annual Bishop’s Prayer Conference is the commissioning of the diocesan AFP Parish Reps. This was done at the Eucharist, with Coadjutor Bishop Linda Nicholls as celebrant. Bishop Linda had shared words of greeting with us earlier, remarking on how she was able to see that Huron is “a praying diocese.”
Towards the end of the conference we were reminded once again of humanity’s relationship with the natural world: a phrase from St. Patrick’s Breastplate (“the splendor of fire”) seemed especially relevant as we considered how the beauty of creation can sometimes be experienced in all its power and intensity. The community of Fort McMurray had just been impacted by raging wildfires, and so it seemed only fitting to pray for all those affected by this disaster. A portion of the day’s proceeds was directed to Fort McMurray relief work, through the PWRDF.
The Anglican Fellowship of Prayer affirms that “prayer unites” and so, our Diocesan AFP is grateful to all who helped unite us around the theme of Celtic spirituality at the 2016 Bishop’s Prayer Conference, especially for the hospitality of our friends at St. Paul’s Cathedral. For them and for us all, we offer these final words, attributed to St. Patrick:
“Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.”
Rev. Andreas Thiel serves on the Executive of Huron’s AFP. He is the rector of St. Matthew’s, Windsor