by Mike Kinman, Rector of All Saints Church
As Episcopalians, we pray for our leaders. It’s one of those things we do.
We pray for our leaders because they are human beings, made in God’s image, and beloved by God. We pray for our leaders because leadership is important – because it is a sacred trust, power to be exercised for the common good despite all temptation to the otherwise.We pray for our leaders regardless of whether or not we like or agree with them. Our prayers are neither endorsement nor censure. Our prayers ask God to guard and guide, to bring out in our leaders what we hope God brings out in us all – the image of God that dwells in each one of us.
If you come to All Saints this Sunday, you’ll notice that we have removed the proper names from our prayers for those in authority. Whereas before we prayed for “Barack, our president,” we are now praying for “our president, our president-elect, and all others in authority.” This practice will continue for at least the near future.
We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety.
This presents a challenge. We are rightly charged with praying for our leaders … but we are also charged with keeping the worshipping community, while certainly not challenge-free, a place of safety from harm. As I have said before, for some it could be as if we demanded a battered woman pray for her abuser by name. It’s not that the abuser doesn’t need prayer – certainly the opposite – but prayer should never be a trauma-causing act.
The question is – does saying the president’s name in prayer in this way compromise the safety of the worshipping community? Let me be clear that I believe this is a high bar … much more than “I disagree with the president” or even “the president deeply offends me.” This is the level of compromising the safety of the worshipping community.
The truth is, I don’t have an answer to that – I don’t have nearly enough data about where people are to make an informed decision. So over the next several weeks, I will be doing a lot of listening and praying and asking about this as a pastoral and liturgical issue. In the meantime, in consultation with Liturgy Director Melissa Hayes and others on our staff, I have made the change to remove the president’s name (while continuing to pray for him by title) and beginning to pray for the president-elect (though not by name). We have also removed the names from the prayers for our bishops for consistency of style.
I ask you to continue to pray not only for our president and president-elect, but for our nation – and particularly those most fearful and vulnerable among us in this hour.