The blog entry (prayers) below has, five-and-a-half years later, been ranking among my top ten “hits” this week. It might be due to the mass importing I’ve done of posts from my previous blog address. Today I changed the title, to give 9/11 some prominence, but I wanted to make sure that – as the original title did – I gave a nod to Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church.
On that beautiful, sunny morning in September of 2001 I was in a small parlour-style meeting room at my church, along with five or six others on TSP’s worship planning group. (“Planning”, in this case, is often much too strong a word!) We were looking ahead to what seemed would be a Sunday in ordinary – if always difficult – times and, before we knew what was going on in the United States, I accepted the task of leading Prayers of the People the next Sunday, September 16.
To say that I was in constant prayer that week, seeking words to articulate on behalf of – and with – my community, would be an understatement.
These years later, as we witness the unspeakable carnage – in Iraq, in particular, but also Afghanistan and other flashpoints in the ‘War on Terror’ – I see innocent human beings (no less important than anyone so senselessly killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or in that Pennsylvania field) experiencing their own 9/11. For, as much as it was the scale of the calamity which shocked us in 2001, to the families involved there were very personal losses. Those personal ‘nine-elevens’ continue unabated for hundreds of thousands of people, victims of terror – both “insurgent” and state-sponsored. (I won’t name names.)
I also am drawn back to these prayers as I anticipate this coming Sunday when I will lead prayers again on a day which – for TSP – comes in the midst of transition. The pastoral team which came to us in 2000, leading and walking with us through all sorts of world and home events, is leaving at the end of June. This Sunday a team (of which I am an active part), tasked with discerning the next steps we take, will be leading the service and I again find myself struggling for words to pray.
Incidentally, I think this is why I am drawn to the Quakers, where worship is often silent, as it would seem so much easier to just heave a big sigh on Sunday and let feelings flow unspoken. Alas, the TSP congregation’s “planning” tradition suggests I at least try to guide our corporate (small-c) prayers a little. It’s interesting to note how my ideas of prayer, and it’s praying with rather than to Someone, have evolved.
All of which is to
say write a very long reworking of an introduction to those post-9/11 prayers, with the benefit of hindsight, these years later.
Prayers of the People – Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church – September 16, 2001
Weeping, heart-broken God, in the quiet of this sanctuary we cry out – bewildered – with laments of grief and shock to which we cannot put adequate words. Our faith shaken, we long to cling to hope as a frightened child clings to a trust-worthy parent. We seek comfort in numbers. Our human family feels unspeakable pain. In our tears we question where you have been this week. Through those tears we see you – in the firefighters, the paramedics, the police, and in others summoning unusual strength. We pray that your love will surround all who have been touched by terror this week. May such love overcome retribution, reason overtake reaction, and generosity of spirit supplant any racist suspicion and mistrust. We especially think of our Muslim neighbours right now. Loving Hope, cradle us all in your arms and reassure us of the safe refuge which is your love. God of goodwill, embolden us to declare your peace!
Ground Of All Being, we entrust to your comfort the waves upon waves of victims of this week’s calamity – the families and friends of all the dead, the injured, the missing and anyone – not the least of whom may be among us – for whom this tragedy opens tender wounds.Peacemaker, we remember that Jesus called us to pray for our enemies. We struggle. Some of us don’t feel ready for that yet. Care for us in our anger. Give us the words or, at least, the willingness to pray for the loved ones of whoever was responsible. Oh God, we extend special prayers for the children of this often frightening world. Let us live as examples to them. Bless parents, caregivers and educators of all children at this time. Embolden us to declare your peace!
God of change, help us upset the market stalls of our violent ways – be they in our workplaces, our homes, or in any place or societal institution devoid of love, justice and compassion. We thank you for those Americans who this week called on their President and people of faith to be about peace. What, then, should be the response? How might you have us mete out justice? Guide those in political power to discern your loving will. Be with Prime Minister Chretien and our Parliament as Canada’s position on the world stage is debated. God of many names, embolden us to declare your peace!
Breath of life, we pray for the end of all wars – all self-will run riot – throughout the world. In silence or aloud, we name just some of the places awaiting your peace – (the Balkans, Sudan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Indonesia, Angola, Somalia…) Embolden us to declare your peace!
Great Spirit of hope, we thank you for the support of this community. We pray that you will bless those who provide pastoral care – grief counsellors, chaplains in hospitals and extended care homes, nurses, doctors and all pastoral care ministers, including Karen and Hal. Renew their strength, O God.
Our immediate family at Trinity-St. Paul’s has faced other challenges this week. (local references deleted) Touch their hearts, Great Comforter, with your loving presence.
We also raise other concerns this day, either in silence or aloud:
======Silence, then “Embolden us to declare your peace!”======
Let us now pray, together, the ecumenical prayer found in your Order of Service. Today we pray with the Church in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama:
God of Mercy, We ask you to forgive us our sins,
To enlighten our imagination,
So that we can share more equally
The gifts you have left for all of your children,
So that creation may join us in praising your name.