Iona Benediction Prayer

     This is a prayer from the Iona community.  It is a responsive benediction that is best led (in my opinion) not from the pulpit, lectern, font, or table but in the very midst of the people with confidence, conviction, and clarity.*
The cross, we will take it.
The bread, we will break it.
The pain, we will bear it.
The joy, we will share it.
The Gospel, we will live it.
The love, we will give it.
The light, we will cherish it.
The darkness, God shall perish it!
     This is a prayer that I first experienced at a worship service at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.  I have used this as the responsive benediction for most of the Sundays that I have been preaching at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia.  I love this prayer for many reasons.  First and foremost, like any good liturgy, the language is rhythmic, poetic and yet very easy to grasp.  The responsive nature of the benediction gives a sense of shared responsibility among the congregation.  It is almost as if the one presiding and the congregation are making a promise to themselves or, perhaps more accurately, are keeping a promise already made to them by God.  As this prayer is uttered as we prepare to follow the Word into the world, this prayer empowers us by reminding us that it is our job to cherish the light and it is God's job to perish the darkness!  
*worship spaces differ greatly.  For some communities, the table and font are the central focal point with the congregation gathered around them.  If so, this prayer would best be done from that location. If not, care should be taken that the physical location of this liturgy is intimate!
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Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.