When they asked, I was both thrilled and cowed. Dean Alan Jones of Grace Cathedral had always given the invocation in the past – but he would be sailing the South Seas on Friday, February 13, 2009. And so Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen (the organizers of the San Francisco Writers’ Conference) asked another minister-cum-writer to deliver the opening invocation … and that was … me.
Following the Very Reverend Alan Jones would be a challenge for anyone, for he epitomizes wisdom, courage, and grace in his every written and spoken word. But Elizabeth is my literary agent and Michael is my friend, and I am forever indebted to them. After honoring me with the request, they told me to focus on the needs of writers, be inspirational but not religious, and keep it under five minutes.
So with the blessing of Rev. Jones, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible as my guide, I was thrilled to give the following invocation:
Good afternoon. We have come together in this, the sixth convening of the San Francisco Writers’ Conference, to make new friends, explore new possibilities, and encourage each other. As such, we are “making community” – and surely that is the work of God, or Spirit, or Muse, or Desperation, or whatever we call that force that pushes us to keep writing. For we know that the challenges are real – in fact, I wonder if sometimes our prayers sound like this:
The Muse is my shepherd,
I shall not want for words.
She makes me lie down with greenbacks that flow from big contracts;
She restores my self-esteem.
She leads me in paths of rhyme and right phrasing
For her arts’ sake.
Yea, even though I stumble over stones of shame and self-contempt,
I fear no writers’ blocks.
For Thou are with me;
Thy words and phrases, they comfort me.
Surely verbs and verses shall follow me all the days of my life
And my books will be bestsellers forever.
In all seriousness, I suggest that, whatever your religious beliefs, you might resonate with “process theology,” in which God is the creative process – more like electricity or magnetism than a person or entity. As you read the Bible or other sacred texts, replace “God” with “Creativity” – I think you will like the results. And remember what St. John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word” – the seed planted in us so that we could be co-creators with God.
And so, as we give thanks for the sun, rain, and earth that grew this food, the hands who planted and prepared this feast, and the friends who brought us together, we also honor the Great Creativity that lies at the core of our cosmos and at the center of our yearnings. And thus we pray:
Our Creator, who art in the Eternal Imagination,
Hallowed be Thy powers.
Thy arts be honored, Thy works be written
In the mundane and eternal realms.
Give us this day our daily Word,
And forgive us our mixed metaphors, split infinitives, and the overuse of adjectives.
Lead us not into feelings of inadequacy, but deliver us from the travails of unresponsive agents and unappreciative publishers.
For thine is the glory, the possibility, and the connection with the Eternal Word.
For ever and ever. Amen.