Post Author: Sara Nave Fisher
In early March, a copy of Speaking Truth arrived at my house, and I was excited to read it. I was busy pastoring during Lent and making plans for Easter, excited for this celebratory season in the life of the church, so this collection of prayers and reflections seemed perfect.
And then, a few days later, everything changed. COVID-19 quickly rewrote all our daily patterns and our expectations.
As I write this, we’ve been living in this pandemic for over three months; though stores and restaurants have reopened, cases in my community are spiking, so worship remains virtual and my family remains at home.
Three months is a long time… and yet, I can’t really remember what life was like before; this season has been an entire lifetime and a breath, both at once.
If you’re like me, you started quarantine back in March with a big stack of books and, in the midst of dread and fear and anxiety, harbored a small sliver of joy that you would finally have time to get to them.
ALL THE TIME! I thought. THERE WILL BE SO MUCH FREE TIME!!!
Then, if you’re like me, it was much harder to take advantage of that time than I anticipated. After several weeks of quarantine, the stack of books still sat on my side table, staring at me. I opened a couple early on and had a hard time focusing, reading a few sentences until I found my mind wandering to how to upload the next worship video or making a mental checklist of the parishioners I needed to call.
That was my experience with every book I tried to read… until I got to Speaking Truth.
What a breath of fresh air.
This book, published by Abingdon Press, is a follow-up to We Pray With Her, a collection of prayers written by women who sent daily prayers to Secretary Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign in 2016. Speaking Truth took that premise and expanded it, including more voices — particularly of women of color and queer clergy.
I knew I would love it, especially in this time of COVID-19, when I noticed that the Table of Contents reads like a “Coping Stages during Quarantine” meme:
My clergy circles have been cycling through those stages since the quarantine began! I imagine that’s true for lots of people right now, clergy or not.
So I smiled, sighed deeply, and began thumbing through the book to get a feel for it. I stopped short when I saw the chapter title Facing Loss in the top right corner and looked down to the page:
A Prayer for Disappointment
Empty, Lord—I am empty. The space and place in my soul that was once filled with hope and future is now empty. Disappointment is stealing my joy. Can’t you feel my dry soul?*
Whew. I’m not sure I could imagine a more appropriate prayer for Spring 2020.
For such a time as this, Speaking Truth speaks to us. And as the uncertainty of COVID-19 has expanded into unrest over police brutality and racism in the United States, it continues to speak.
It contains some very specific prayers, such as For Yet Another Snow Day and For the Loss of a Foster Child and Before Entering a Contentious Meeting. Others address a more broad range of emotions, such as For Renewal and For Tough Conversations. Each prayer is thoughtful and authentic, giving words to articulate an array of experiences, so that each person can resonate — even if the details of our experiences differ.
But as grateful as I am for the prayers, I have been most drawn to the reflections. During this time of physical distancing, when my congregation continues to gather from behind screens and my monthly clergywomen lunch group has ceased our meetings, Speaking Truth feels like a group of friends and colleagues gathered to share encouragement and stories. Sitting on my couch with this book in hand, it feels like a friend is sitting next to me; during a time of isolation, this is the perfect gift.
The book itself is small enough to comfortably fit in my hands and the cover is even soft; it makes me want to curl up with a cup of coffee. Its topical layout is helpful for quickly finding a useful prayer, though I wish that the reflection pieces had titles so I could more easily scan through those.
Speaking Truth addresses topics I’ve not seen included in other prayer books. Clergy too often avoid those very tough conversations we need to have on topics such as white fragility, mental health, abortion, and toxic congregational leadership. These prayers offer a starting point for difficult conversations when our own words fail us.
Unlike the surplus of prayer books written by only men, this book of prayers is written by only women — though it is not for only women! I recommend that people (particularly pastors) who aren’t women read it. These prayers and reflections are a gift to the whole church.
Whether you’ve been barreling through books during this season or struggle to read a paragraph, I recommend Speaking Truth. I look forward to keeping it close by even when we emerge from isolation and can see each other face-to-face again. In the meantime, I will remember that I’m not in this alone, because I am surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses on every page of this book.
*Written by Katie J. P. Bishop, page 107
Rev. Sara Nave Fisher is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She currently lives in Texas with her husband Jonathan, who is an Army chaplain, and their three kids. Sara serves as the Senior Minister at Rolling Oaks Christian Church in San Antonio and writes at saranavefisher.com.
Image by: Sara Nave Fisher
Used with permission