Keep us, O Lord, from pettiness.
Let us be thoughtful in word and deed.
Help us to put away pretense and face each other in deep trust without fear or self-pity.
Help us to guard against fault-finding and be quick to discover the best in each other and in every situation.
Guard us from ill temper and hasty judgment, encourage us to take time for all things to grow calm, serene and gentle.
Help us to be generous with kind words and compliments.
Teach us never to ignore, never to hurt, never to take each other for granted.
Engrave charity and compassion on our hearts.
Last Saturday I conducted the funeral services for Ann Linkenheimer Britton, a former member of Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church. Ann and her family worshipped her in the 1960’s. Her first husband’s work took the family to the mid-west. Twenty years later, around the late 1990’s, Ann moved back to Bucks County. She was active first in the Newtown Presbyterian Church and later in the Doylestown Presbyterian Church. She served as a chaplain at Doylestown Hospital. Ann was a woman of deep faith.
Her family had cards with the dates of her birth and death printed on one side and the prayer printed above on the other side. I’ve never seen a card like it in all my years of conducing funeral services. I wrote to Ann’s daughter-in-law and asked her where her family found this prayer. She wrote back and said, “The ‘Collect’ on the back came from the service for a very good friend to Bob and I, Kevin Edmonds. He passed away at 51years-old from pancreatic cancer. The reflection was something that was always a reminder for Bob and [me] to start a day, week or even a reset in trying times. Kevin's wife, Christine, used it from another neighbor's father's service and said she would be pleased if we used it on Ann's memorial card. It is a different version of ‘Mary Stewart Collect’ or ‘prayer of Mary Stewart’…”
So who is Mary Stewart? Mary Stewart was born in 1876 in Ohio, but spent her childhood in Georgetown, Colorado, high in the Rockies. As the principal of a high school at Longmont, Colorado, she was described as a little bundle of energy, dignity and personal charm. She wrote this collect while she was principal and it has been used ever since by the Women’s Institutes and other organizations around the world as their club creed. Mary Stewart died at the age of 67, on April 1, 1943, in Ohio.
Written in 1904 as a prayer for the day, Mary said of her prayer: "I called it a 'Collect for Club Women' because I felt that women working together, with wide interests in large ends, which was a new thing under the sun and that, perhaps they had need for a special petition and meditation of their own"
Well, Mary Stewart: thank you for your wonderful prayer. And thanks for letting Ann’s family borrow it. We, the living members—women, men, youth, children—need to pray it and to live it.