Collects for Pandemic Sanctuaries

c Brennon Wesley

Cara Modisett, a middler at VTS who is also a fine church musician, has composed three lovely collects for the pandemic church while on retreat.  Here is what she says about them:

“Last week, I packed up everything I’d need (I hoped) for a socially distanced week in the mountains of Bath County, Va. – bread, soup, apples, coffee, chocolate, ginger ale, Rice Krispies; clothes, a raincoat, a lawn chair, masks, Lysol wipes, my laptop, and several stacks of books. Two of the days I’d meet my parents, sister, niece and nephew at a nearby state park, but the rest of time I was reading, writing, working (and following the Democratic National Convention). 

While on retreat, I read the Reverend Lauren Winner’s Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God – one of those books that has been on my “read these books” stacks for a while. The book seeks to meet God, understand God a bit more, renew friendship with God through the everyday and the elemental – clothing, fire, laughter, childbirth, bread. Unexpectedly sacred things. 

These days, we’re meeting God in unexpectedly sacred places, and as I spent a week surrounded by mountains, listening every night to the cicadas and a creek outside, walked out into a meadow and saw the Milky Way, caught the sky reflected in the complete calm of a mountain lake, I thought about what we are missing – community, cathedral, communion – and what we are finding. These three collects came out of that. As I wrote them, I kept finding myself returning to the words “remind us.”  

Collects, as their name implies, are collective prayers – they can be prayed alone, but are intended to be prayed together by those who are gathered to worship.”  

Any of these beautiful prayers would be appropriate to use at your liturgies on zoom or Facebook.

Three Collects for Pandemic Sanctuaries: 

Creator God, you remind us over and over that we are not our own, but part of the human congregation, and where we are gathered in the world, in your sanctuaries, in our towns and cities, across mountains and oceans, physically distanced in space, we are still a part of each other, even when we are apart from each other. Keep reminding us, keep loving through us across our distances. In the name of Christ, love incarnate, Amen.  

God, we find you in different cathedrals, under arches of oak trees and windows of sky, in singing of cicadas and prayer of deer. You are present in the architecture of creation, in blessings of breezes and sermons of stars. Your word is present here, and we do not need altars and pews to hear it. As your world cares for us, let us care for it, for the sake of your son, your word with us on earth, Jesus Christ. Amen.  

Ever-present father, we mourn the Eucharist. We miss gathering around your table for Sunday dinner, for the presence of you and your son and the spirit, in a physical, shared and nourishing trinity that we taste in bread and wine. We long for that welcome to the meal, the faces of those we love, the good brokenness that is your life scattered in and through us. We forget that all those things exist still, and that we can gather, share, welcome, taste, see, be nourished, and then turn and gather, share, welcome, taste, see and nourish. Scatter us as your Eucharist, the work of your people, because it and we are not bound by walls. In the name of Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us, Amen. 

Cara Ellen Modisett is a rising second-year M.Div. student at Virginia Theological Seminary, a postulant for holy orders from the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. A pianist, essayist and teacher, she served for most of a decade as music director of St. Elizabeth’s in Roanoke; for minister of communication at Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis, Tennessee; communications director at St. John’s, Roanoke and communications advisor for the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. Her non-church work included years as magazine editor, public radio reporter, university collaborative pianist and college English instructor. She curated and wrote the Prayers of the People for General Convention 78 and is a contributing editor for Episcopal Cafe.