published Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Cooper: Gathered GPS prayers published

Some years ago, for some reason, Jane Henegar said, someone at Girls Preparatory School asked her to deliver a prayer at the first faculty meeting of the year.

"Maybe it was because I'm always in need of prayer," she said, "but I considered it a great blessing."

Henegar's carefully crafted prayers became a tradition for much of the 30 years she taught there.

A former colleague, Sara Gahan, thought so much of the petitions that she gathered them into a book and self-published it.

"Praying Life," which also was the name of the weekly noon prayer gatherings Henegar had with other teachers, is 60 pages in length and is available in hardback or softcover at Girls Preparatory School.

In addition to prayers delivered at the opening annual faculty meeting, it also contains prayers given at special times -- May Day, assemblies, a 9/11 anniversary -- prayers related to students and colleagues, and even a poem.

Henegar, who contributes a weekly recipes column in the Times Free Press, said the school has a heritage of prayers and praying.

A former headmaster, Dr. Nat Hughes, kept a collection of prayers, she said. And a former colleague, Gin Johnston, preceded her in delivering some of the annual faculty meeting prayers.

The newly retired teacher -- her last day was Tuesday, following a summer school class -- said her thought in writing prayers was what the school needed most from God, what the students needed most and what the teachers needed most.

"It does prod you to think," she said. "It was a great gift."

Henegar, who taught Old Testament, New Testament and other classes such as global issues at the school, said she used metaphors in her prayers that indicated beginnings, journeys, newness and changes.

In a year in which a new student center opened, for instance, she pondered what the real center of the school should be. In another year, she saw the term before the faculty as an empty notebook. In still another, she discussed trading in sand-filled sandals for regular school shoes and wondered in what spiritual shoes faculty members would be shod.

In looking back over her career at the school, Henegar said she thought less about the young women she influenced and more about the young women who influenced her.

"You cannot begin to say what being a teacher does for a teacher," she said. "You're pushed to study, for one.

"Also, the girls are so fresh and honest and kind and loving and forgiving. They can read something and look up from the page [and have] a new way to see it. For a student to honestly share her life, her unique way of seeing, is an incredible influence."

Henegar said she also drew from the weekly prayer gatherings with faculty members.

"It's appropriate for people to pray [about] their communal and individual life -- the joys and sorrows and fears assailing us," she said.

Those gatherings, Henegar said, were where she drew close to Gahan. The English teacher left the school a year ago when her husband went to graduate school, but Gahan so admired her colleague's prayers that she self-published them from New York City.

"Praying Life" will be available in the GPS bookstore during weekday lunches. A hardback copy is $30; a softcover copy is $20.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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