Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
…Peter went up on the roof to pray.
Prayer is at the heart of the pivotal story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). Cornelius is a Gentile, a centurion, or Roman soldier, “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God” (Acts 10:2). He has a vision of an angel, saying that Cornelius’ prayers have ascended to God and that Cornelius is to send men to bring Peter to him. While the men are on their way, Peter goes up to pray and has a vision in which God shows him that what God has declared clean Peter must not see as unclean. This opens Peter up to go with the men to visit Cornelius. Peter has a profound experience of recognizing that God is welcoming Gentiles as well as Jews into the community of believers. Cornelius and his household are baptized; the first Gentile converts. It is an important turning point in the pilgrimage of the early church, and it all begins in prayer.
There are two churches in the diocese named for St. Peter, and both are grounded in prayer.
St. Peter’s, Hazleton is the older of the churches, having begun as a part of a missionary effort in 1849. It was consecrated in 1866, at a service using Communion vessels which were gifts from St. Stephen’s, Wilkes-Barre. Their Parish Prayer begins, “Almighty and everlasting God, Make our Parish of St. Peter’s truly a community of prayer.” The ministry of prayer is at the heart of their Order of the Daughters of the King chapter, which is “a spiritual praying Order of women in the Episcopal Church and churches within the Historic Episcopate.” Like Cornelius, they give generously to the community, but the heart of what they do is prayer. (The image above is an ad for Hazelton; an illustration from the 1909 book on the diocese.)
They say that the one who sings prays twice, and perhaps St. Peter’s, Tunkhannock’s commitment to prayer can be attributed to the fact that their first recorded meeting place, in 1880, was in the Platt’s Opera House. Whatever the cause, prayer permeates the ministry of St Peter’s, with healing services once a month at the church, and twice a month in the community. Prayers for healing are available every Sunday during Communion. Once a month, a labyrinth is open during the healing service. A chapter of St. Luke the Physician meets for prayer and study regularly. Their description of their parish says, “We continue our traditions of prayer, listening and openness for Christ to enter our lives. We seek Christ daily through prayer, quiet, Bible reading. We listen for Christ in others and bless our encounters. We offer healing ministry in the community.”
Prayer transformed Peter and Cornelius. It is transforming these parishes.
How is prayer transforming you and your parish?