Praying with the Early Church

Posted on January 20, 2011 by VMMissions Staff

On December 12, the Early Church (in downtown Harrisonburg) gathered to ordain Ron Copeland to the ministry. It was my first visit to their worship service and remarkable in many ways.

The youthful diversity of the gathering—students from EMU and JMU—meet with the group on a regular basis. Persons with various racial/ethnic characteristics came together on this third Sunday of Advent to hear portions of Mary’s ancient song.

Ron Copeland’s message was autobiographical. He had received a call to ministry in his early youth that caught up to him after a journey of flight through the young adult years. His first vow was, “to never smoke pot again.” I spoke with Ron’s mother after the service. She confirmed that Ron really
didn’t have a chance. His grandmother was a colleague of Amy McPherson, the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church in California. Ron’s mother, herself, was a ‘miracle baby’ in that her mother, after many miscarriages, was bedfast for the full nine months of pregnancy.

Mary’s song was meant for Ron to preach. The social transformation involved in raising up the poor and sending the rich away empty was good news for the group gathered that morning.
As Bishop/Overseer Roy Hange led the ordination charge, it was clear that we were being carried along by the gathered community. The affirmation for the integrity of Ron’s calling and expression of ministry was palpable.

The service closed with our sharing the Lord’s Supper. In the picture, Ron Copeland and Brian Farrell are serving the bread and cup.

As remarkable as each of the above features was, it was the community at prayer that took me by surprise. Following each prayed request, we were invited to join with, “Lord, hear our prayer.” But, as each request was named—a brother with health needs, a mother living apart from her children, acknowledgement of need for support with addictions and mental health issues, and many more—the group response was, “LORD, HEAR OUR PRAYER!” No self-satisfied bunch here, a group who knew their needs was begging for the attention of Mary’s God.

As we move through winter toward the season of remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, my prayer is that each congregation will be a genuine reflection of the many facets of God’s love in each context. And I can hear the Early Church respond, “LORD, HEAR OUR PRAYER!”

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