Ellen Davis’s Prayer

A Pastoral Prayer
Installation of Mack Dennis as Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Asheville
October 2, 2016

We pray to you, Lord Christ, For the holy church of God throughout the world,
that it may be filled with truth and love,
that the Gospel may be taught and preached to the ends of the earth,
and that the church in every place may be found to be faithful at the day of your coming;

We pray for all members of your church in their vocation and ministry,
that each may serve you through a true and godly life.

We pray for those who do not yet believe, for those who have lost their faith, and for those many who struggle bravely with doubt,
that the light of Christ may shine into their hearts.

We pray for the poor, the sick, and all who suffer; for refugees, prisoners, victims of abuse, and all who are in danger,
that wherever they may be, they may find relief and protection,
and that Christians may reach out to them in compassion and friendship.

We pray for this city of Asheville, for our nation, and for all the peoples of the earth,
that a spirit of mutual respect and forbearance may grow in every community and nation,
and that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We pray for First Baptist Church, Asheville, its staff and its members,
that this household of God may be a sign of love in our broken world,
that it may model unity strong enough to overcome fragmentation,
justice and gentleness strong enough to heal estrangement,
joy and hope powerful enough to conquer despair.

Especially this evening we pray for Austin McIver Dennis, chosen to serve as Pastor in your church,
that by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit he may be sustained and encouraged to persevere to the end in selfless service of Christ;

that through faithful teaching, preaching, and leadership in the community, he may build up your church in this generation, and glorify your Name in this community;

that through prayer and study of your Word, he may offer wise counsel in times of perplexity, leadership both courageous and compassionate through whatever trials may lie ahead;

that his family—Erin, Liam, and Ozzie—may share fully with him in the joy of Christ and in mutual affection for one another, and thus be strengthened to reach out in love to others;

O Lord, behold this your servant Mack. Make him modest and humble, strong and supple, constant to observe the discipline of Christ. Let his life, his words and actions, so reflect your commandments, that through him many will come to know, love, and follow you. As your Son came not to be served but to serve, may Mack have a full share in the service of your kingdom, giving himself to the end that this congregation may do its part in giving glory to Christ, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.


With a Grateful Heart…

Just as soon as we began unloading the truck, there came a downpour. A raucous, blustery thunderstorm had seized our side of the mountain. The movers huddled in their truck, as I took cover under the front door’s awning. After several minutes, the storm passed, and there, in plain view from the front yard of our new house, rose the most beautiful rainbow. It’s been years since I’ve seen a rainbow so brilliant and full (and that one was in Maui). There were no faded sections, no missing colors.  From beginning to end, it was sterling and marvelous, a lovely and fitting welcome to Asheville.

Though the rainbow followed a fleeting storm–not a 40-day flood–the first thoughts that came to mind were those of promise and fulfillment. I couldn’t help but remember God’s promise, not only to Noah and his family, but to all flesh–the promise of an everlasting, unbreakable covenant. “When the bow is in the clouds,” God tells Noah, “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:16).

In that moment, I was also filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for the First Baptist Church of Asheville. As I paused to appreciate the view in the midst of an exhausting day, I was strengthened by the memories of the past several months, and especially of our time together in early June. What an extraordinarily warm welcome you gave my family and me. I have since come to regard that time with you as a sign of great promise and fulfillment.  It was fulfilling in the sense that our introduction and your ensuing congregational vote brought to a joyful end an anxious chapter of searching and discernment for all of us. It was filled with promise because of the joy I saw in you, and sensed in my own heart, as I accepted the call to be your new pastor.

In the hallway of Duke Divinity School, over the stairwell that leads down to Goodson Chapel, there is inscribed in the stone archway (a bow, of sorts) the following quote from John Wesley: “The best of all is, God is with us.”

Now I know I should quote an old Baptist in my first blog post, but you’ll hear enough from me about them in due time. What I want to tell you now is simply this:  whenever you lift up your eyes to see a rainbow spread across these beautiful hills, regard it as a sign that God is with us, and that this Almighty and Everlasting God will never leave us.

I suppose, as many rainbows as one sees around here, this good news will be impossible to forget.