The Collect for Proper 16: The Sunday closest to August 24

Grant, O merciful God,
that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit,
may show forth your power among all peoples,
to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 232-3)

Historical introduction:  This Collect, originally composed for use on Tuesday in the week after Whitsunday (Pentecost) in the 1928 BCP, is derived from a 7th-century Collect used for the Friday after Whitsunday.[1] 

While Hatchett helpfully notes that the 1928 Collect’s Petition for the church to be protected from being “disturbed by the assault of the enemy” was changed to the present “may show forth [God’s] power among all peoples,” he did not provide a reason for the shift of this Petition from protection of the church to the church’s mission.  Nor did he provide an explanation for why the Collect was moved from the week of Pentecost to its present place in the Church Year.[2]  Since the two Collects called “A Collect for Peace” in Morning Prayer (BCP 99) and Evening Prayer (BCP 123) have Petitions that ask for the protection of the Church from its enemies,[3] and since the expectation is that Daily Morning and Evening Prayer are the daily public worship of the Episcopal Church (except on Sundays), it may be that this change to this particular Collect in our 1979 BCP was with the expectation that, through the combination of all of the prayers across the Church, from Monday through Thursday, we are publicly praying twice daily for the church’s protection from its enemies.[4]

The Preamble, “O merciful God,” like the Collect for Proper 10, does not have a separate Acknowledgement, but the Preamble’s description of God as merciful serves this function.  The description of God as merciful invites us to consider what in the Petition either depends upon or shows forth God’s mercy.

The Petition, “Grant … that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples,” declares that the Holy Spirit’s work, begun at baptism, continues as the mission of the Church.  Through baptism, we each are sealed by the Holy Spirit and initiated into Christ’s Body the Church (Baptism, BCP 298).  In the service of Holy Baptism, we proclaim together that “There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God’s call to us; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God and Father of all” (BCP 299, see Ephesians 4:1-16).  In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that the Church will be one as he and the Father are one—the unity of the Church is both a gift from and a reflection of the divine life of the Trinity.  By God’s merciful grace, we have the potential to become what God has intended—for us to be the one holy apostolic and catholic (world-wide) Church (Nicene Creed, BCP 358-9); when we are at unity with each other and God, we most clearly demonstrate God’s power to others.  To unify the diverse members of the Body of Christ, allowing each true liberty without imposing uniformity, so that our hearts, minds, and wills are united in love of God and neighbor will be an amazing work of God’s merciful power!

The Aspiration, “to the glory of your Name,” gives the desired outcome of this petition:  that our lives, woven together through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will not only show forth God’s power, but will bring glory to God. 

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen”, ends our prayer on the theme of the unity of the Trinity that our lives together are to reflect. 

For your consideration:

In this season after Pentecost, the focus of the Church Year is on the work of the Holy Spirit to direct and empower the mission of the Church.  Consider a time when the parish has had to make a major decision that resulted in a new or renewed sense of unity.  What did living into the unifying power of the Holy Spirit feel and look like?  How was God glorified through the unity of the parish? 

Grant, O merciful God,
that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit,
may show forth your power among all peoples,
to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 232-3)

© 2022 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide


[1] Up until the 1979 BCP, much of the Church celebrated Whitsunday (Pentecost) for eight days (an Octave).  Since 1979, our Church Year has only one Octave, the Octave of Easter (which is not named as such), in which we have separate Collects appointed for each of the eight days following the feast day.

[2] Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York, HarperOne, 1995), 191. 

[3] In Morning Prayer, A Collect for the Renewal Of Life, A Collect for Grace, and A Collect for Guidance (BCP 99-100) are prayers of protection, but are more general and seem to focus more on issues that arise from within rather than for protection from external sources.  In Evening Prayer, A Collect for Aid against Perils and A Collect for Protection (BCP 123-4) are also more general, with the petition for protection from dangers in the night.

[4] See the first paragraph in “Concerning the Service of the Church,” BCP 13—the expectation is that Morning and Evening Prayer are the regular public worship services except on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) and other major Feasts.  In the 1928 BCP Morning and Evening Prayer, these two Collects for Peace were not optional; in our 1979 BCP, they are one of four Collects that are not assigned to a given day of the week.  The set “Prayer for the Day” for Sunday, Friday, and Saturday in Morning and Evening Prayer have different themes based upon the day of the week.

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