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The Book of Order reminds us that one of the ways a faithful member gets involved in Christ’s mission is by “lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support” (G-1.0304). Upon reflecting on this phrase, “one another” and “mutual” seemed to stick out.
In Spanish, adhering to the General Assembly’s statements on using inclusive language becomes difficult because Spanish assigns feminine or masculine genders to almost every word. When translating “one another,” "mutuamente" can be used. For example, “let us love one another” becomes "amémonos mutuamente." This way, the language is intentionally inclusive and carries the message and commandment that this is not a task for just one person. This is a task that we undertake for others, and others undertake for us.
“Mutual” comes from the words "mutuel" in French and from the Latin "mūtu(us)." It has a connection with “mutate,” to change. It makes sense. What we do in mutuality can change us. When we pray for one another, and feel the support and power of prayer, it can change our mood and our relationship with others. Can you remember a time when you were paired up with someone and you prayed for one another? How did you feel? How did the other person feel? Did it change you in some way?
Then there is the aspect of “active support.” Even if this term does not include “mutual,” it recognizes that we need each other. Like the support beams of a house, it usually takes more than one. Several beams are necessary in order to hold it up.
As ruling elders and teaching elders we are called, through our ordination vows, to pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love (W-4.0404h). We sometimes focus on the last part of the sentence and seem to forget the first. We pray and we seek to serve the people, to create a mutuality that calls the congregation to lift each other in prayer, to practice mutual concern, and to actively support each other. We pray and we seek to serve the people so that the church can be a place where all can be together and have all things in common, supporting each other as any has need, and breaking bread together with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2: 44–47).
As children, we learn by example. We see and we do. We learn to share by example. We learn patience by example. As adults, we need to learn by example as well. We learn to share with each other. We learn patience with each other. That happens when we live in mutuality and reciprocity, when we strive to love each other, through prayer, concern, and support. Amor mutuo!
- Consider the power of prayer in your life and your relationships. How might you begin or continue a practice of lifting others up in prayer?
- What can you do as a ruling elder to create an environment of mutual prayer, concern, and support in your congregation? How can you be an example to others?
Marissa Galván-Valle is a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She is the senior editor for Spanish Language Resources in the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation and temporary pastor at Beechmont Presbyterian Church, an intercultural church that worships each Sunday in Spanish and English. She was ordained as a ruling elder when she was 21 years old.
Throughout 2023 and 2024, monthly Regarding Ruling Elders articles will alternate between a deep dive into the ways ruling elders discern and measure the life of a congregation through the ministry of members and stories about how ruling elders are using their call and gifts as they move within and beyond the walls of the congregation.
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