It cannot be stressed enough that preparation is part of the blessing. Don’t rush in anticipation of the blessing. Whenever we take time to be in the Divine Presence—through prayer, scripture study, conversation anticipating a sacrament, or just “wasting time with our Creator”—we become more aware of God’s generous grace, and we are blessed. We will be more open to receiving and under-standing the blessing as God intends.
Please remember that no two congregations are alike. The preparation most effective for any given congregation will be unique.
Practicing the Disciplines
This is a wonderful opportunity for the congregation to work on spiritual disciplines that will help it hear and understand God as it draws ever closer to divinity. Self-examination can begin by answering two questions: “What am I currently not doing that would open me up more to God’s grace in my life and the life of my congregation?” “What am I doing that, if stopped, would open me more to this same grace?” Teaching and practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, fasting, and scripture study can help the congregation become ready to more fully receive and understand God’s blessing. Learn more about Spiritual Formation.
Leadership Team Activities
The leadership team will guide the congregation through preparation for the blessing. It is important that team members purposefully focus on the meaning of the sacrament and together create suggestions for preparation. Going on retreat for this purpose may be extremely beneficial. Writing statements of purpose and commitment can be a powerful means of focusing the preparation.
Be sure to give the congregation activities that focus on the upcoming blessing. This can be done in many ways, including classes, service projects, community breakfasts, and mid-week meetings. The entire congregation might want to visit a place it considers sacred to more intentionally get in touch with the Divine. Those who are able might consider a trip to our temples in Independence, Missouri, or Kirtland, Ohio. Help the congregation see each activity through the lens of the upcoming blessing. [Appendix 4.A–B offers suggestions to stimulate ideas.]
For various reasons—differences with doctrine, church or congregational leadership, or personal issues—some members might feel the blessing is not in order. The congregation’s priesthood, as well as the evangelists, should offer an opportunity to express reservations or outright negativity. In some cases the person might be in need of ministry and healing. Over time, if a few members remain adamantly opposed while most embrace the blessing, leaders should move forward with preparations. It is important to remember that the blessing will not end with the last “Amen.” The blessing will offer the congregation a chance to grow afterward, as well. That means leaders should persist in seeking paths of reconciliation and Christ’s peace within the congregation.
Roles of the Evangelists
If available, two to four evangelists would be ideal for the blessing’s planning and participation stages. A lead evangelist, chosen by the evangelists or the pastor, might be identified to coordinate with the leadership team and give detailed guidance to the evangelists. They should meet regularly to pray for each other and the congregation as they prepare for the blessing. Participation in all congregational activities, such as teaching classes, sharing in Sunday and midweek services, visiting in homes, and alerting members and friends to the possibility of additional ministries of blessing will bring the evangelists closer to the people. It might be helpful for the evangelists to write a heartfelt blessing as they approach the day of blessing. Whether blended into the public prayer of blessing or not, writing and sharing prayers among the evangelists will enrich the sacramental experience.
Roles of Priesthood
Besides the leadership team, the priesthood as a whole plays a vital role in preparing for the blessing. Members partner with the leadership team in praying for the congregation. They share witness of being called and of personal blessings. They provide home visits and work within their unique callings as situations arise during the preparation. In many ways they provide the foundation for the work ahead. [See sample “Priesthood and Leadership Covenant” in Appendix 5.]
Having all priesthood members write a prayer for the congregation is a way to use each one’s unique insights and giftedness. The prayers then can be shared with the leadership team and evangelists to help the overall preparation. Another suggestion is to have priesthood members sign a covenant, committing their best to the preparation. Again, a retreat for the priesthood might be an ideal means of preparing.
The testimony of Joseph Luff, which became a beloved hymn, serves well as a divine directive for all priesthood during this preparation: “O my people, saith the Spirit….Love ye me and love all people—love as I have loved you; This your calling—this my purpose—Thus be my disciples true.”
Home visiting by the priesthood, as directed by the pastor, is a key part of the congregation’s preparation. This includes the evangelists. This is an important time to deepen understanding of the blessing, address needs of families and individuals through counsel and ad-ministration, and share ministry by spending time together in the name of Christ Jesus. The priesthood may help the members personalize their preparation during these visits. The priesthood should be attentive to opportunities to share about family blessings and individual or continuing life blessings that often flow from these visits. These requests should be referred to an evangelist. As always, follow the guidelines of confidentiality. [See Appendix 6 for a sample visiting program.]