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Let Us Pray for Baltimore

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Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton leads us in a singing march after our Prayer Service for Baltimore

Last night, we gathered at Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore to offer our prayers for the healing of Baltimore. Here is a copy of the prayers that we used, which were adapted in part from some prayers in the New Zealand Prayer Book for the Anglican Church. Friends from all around the country joined us in prayer last night, and you are invited to pray with us too.

Prayers for Baltimore        

Leader: Let us pray:

-O God of many names, lover of all peoples; we pray for justice and peace in our hearts and homes, in our city and our world. Amen

-We pray for Freddie Gray and for all who mourn his death. Amen

-for those who are angry about the ongoing problems of racism, income inequality, education disparity and police brutality. Amen

-for all who are hoping for accountability and systemic change. Amen

-for the young adults in our city who have lost hope and turned to violence. Amen

-for parents who worry about their children getting into trouble     Amen

-for the protesters and police, for the National Guard and the Fire Department. Amen

-for Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and all who direct law enforcement. Amen

-for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Governor Larry Hogan, and all in authority. Amen

-for religious leaders working with our citizens, and for community organizers who are bringing people together. Amen

-for the small businesses that have suffered due to vandalism and looting. Amen

-for reporters and those in the media who are telling our story to the world. Amen

-for teachers and educators who are making a difference in the lives of children. Amen

-for all citizens who live with fear and a sense of helplessness. Amen

-for those who yearn for equality and a kinder world. Amen

People: Be our companion and guide, O God, so that we may seek to do your will.

Leader: For the broken and the whole

People: May we build each other up

Leader: For the victims and the oppressors

People: May we share power wisely

Leader For the mourners and the mockers

People: May we have empathy and compassion

Leader: For the silent and the propagandists

People: May we speak our own words in truth

Leader: For the peacemakers and the agitators

People: May clear truth and stern love lead us to harmony

Leader: For the unemployed and the overworked

People: May our impact on others be kindly and creative

Leader: For the hungry and the overfed

People: May we share so that we will all have enough

Leader: For the troubled and the thriving

People: May we live together as wounded healers

Leader: For the vibrant and the dying

People: May we all die to live

Leader: Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be a cause of suffering to one another

People: May we ease the pain of others

Leader: Knit us together in mind and flesh, in feeling and in spirit

People: And make us one, united in friendship

Leader: Let us accept that we are profoundly loved by God

People: And need never be afraid

Leader: May God kindle in us the fire of love

People: To bring us alive and give warmth to the world.

Leader: Let us now name before God, either silently or aloud, those persons and problems that are on our hearts this day.

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All of us out together to sing over our street and neighbors

All Say Together:    The Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

–The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley

Photos by Rebecca Giordano Dreisbach

Praying for Baltimore, Singing, and Walking the Block

Last night our church, Old St. Paul’s, hosted a prayer service for healing in Baltimore. While three different protest groups passed down our street during the service, we sang “Amazing Grace” and prayed, and listened to a sermon from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton about weeping, doing justice, and walking humbly with our God. After all that has happened in our beloved city, it was a relief and a comfort to gather with fellow Christians to lift up our hopes for equality and peace for all citizens of Baltimore.

At the end of the service, Bishop Sutton spontaneously invited all of us to go outside to stand on the front porch of our church to sing hymns as a few protesters and neighborhood folks walked by.

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Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton leads us out on a singing march after our Prayer Service for Baltimore

Singing “This Little Light of Mine,” we walked the block, with the bishop and our crucifer in the lead, and we waved to the many people having dinner in nearby restaurants and shops, many of which had been vandalized and looted in the recent uprisings.

As cars passed, people rolled down their windows to clap and wave and give us a thumbs-up. The bishop shook hands with a man sitting at the bus stop, and with people on the street. As we walked, the bishop kept prompting us to sing another new version of the song, apparently that he was making up as we walked along:

Up and down this street, I’m gonna let it shine!

Prayin for Freddie Gray, I’m gonna let it shine!

For Baltimore, I’m gonna let it shine!

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Tears streamed down my face as I felt a sense of grief that we still live in a world where we have so much injustice and racial discrimination.

By the end of that short walk, there in the middle of downtown Baltimore, I also felt that our songs were healing our neighborhood. It made me smile when I saw that someone had put up balloons on every streetlight along the row of shops that had been vandalized near our church.

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Jessica Sexton, our Youth Minister, helps lead the singing march as our crucifer

It was just a little prayer service with fifty-four people gathered, and it was just a short stroll around our neighborhood, singing a children’s song, but something significant happened as our group tried to do our small part to bring some healing and hope to the people in our beloved city.

It will take a million little acts of kindness and even more actions, large and small, to correct all the injustice in our world before we can get to the point when we will no longer feel the need to march around our city, proclaiming that all lives matter, especially to God, who loves all people equally and unconditionally.

–The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley

Photos by Rebecca Giordano Dreisbach

Crisis in Baltimore: Seeking Peace and Justice for All

Baltimoreans have long had a complicated relationship with their police force, and this latest tragedy in the death of Freddie Gray highlights just how far we have to go. I have only lived in Baltimore for a couple of years now, having moved here from my childhood home in Texas (a place also greatly troubled by violence). Yet, more than I can ever recall experiencing in Texas, police sirens and presence are now a very regular part of my daily life.

 
It’s often tempting in a world filled with violence (both in reality and in the stories we tell), to turn to yet more violence to solve problems, seek revenge, take power, and/or find solace. However, in this “Statement By Faith Leaders Regarding the Current Crisis in Baltimore City,” I find reassurance that it isn’t through increased firepower, strife, violence, or surveillance that we will discover peace (of mind, body, environment, and spirit), but through understanding, respect, and love for our neighbors. As these Faith Leaders so rightly declare, “We profess that every life is precious to God, and are committed to building a City marked by peace, unity, and opportunity for all.”  

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

–Katherine Mead-Brewer

Climate Change: Fragile Earth, Our Island Home

“At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile Earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.”

—Eucharist Prayer C, Book of Common Prayer, pg 370

Growing up Methodist, I never encountered this prayer. But as an Episcopalian today (freshly confirmed!), I thank my blessed stars for Eucharist Prayer C, because it stops me in my tracks every time. Unlike so many other prayers, creeds, and rituals (however important and valuable), this one always zings straight to the heart of me, reminding me of the vastness of the universe and of the Creator’s role in this vastness (not limited to me and my limited imagination; not limited to fragile Earth, my island home).

Artist Point, Yellowstone National Park (one of my most favorite places in the world)

Artist Point, Yellowstone National Park (one of my most favorite places in the world)

As well as a Christian, I am an environmentalist, and both have led me to a firm belief in the reality of climate change and of my significant role as a human being in the exacerbation of this phenomenon.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve done all I can to alter my behavior accordingly. This doesn’t mean I’m doing all I can to honor and protect the sanctity of Earth, fragile Earth—my sacred, God-given island home. And why? Because I’m imperfect. Selfish. Wasteful. Thoughtless. A sinner.

But, as with all sins, there are ways to repent and reform. There are other roads to take. So, where are they? What can I do today to change these things? What actions and new roads can I take now?

As poet Wendell Berry explains in his Yes! article, “To Save the Future, Live in the Present,”

“None of us knows the future. Fairly predictably, we are going to be surprised by it. That is why ‘Take…no thought for the morrow…’ is such excellent advice. … I am not an accredited interpreter of Scripture, but taking thought for the morrow is a waste of time, I believe, because all we can do to prepare rightly for tomorrow is to do the right thing today.” (emphasis added)

I love this advice from Berry (as well as his poetry!), because it speaks to me as both a Christian and environmentalist; it reminds me that both of these identities are activist ones, demanding action today rather than countless empty promises, pity parties, and nail-biting worries for the future.

Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This isn’t scripture giving us an “out” to stop worrying about issues like climate change or to leave such things for future generations to figure out; it’s a moral imperative to take action and do what’s right today. Now.

Or, as Berry puts it:

“The right thing to do today, as always, is to stop, or start stopping, our habit of wasting and poisoning the good and beautiful things of the world, which once were called ‘divine gifts’ and now are called ‘natural resources.’”

And there are many things we as individuals can do today to “start stopping” our wasteful behaviors and become better stewards of these divine gifts. For myself, I’m working to spend more time out in nature (both urban and rural); to dedicate more time to reflecting on and learning about Nature’s variety, strength, and fragility; and to adopt more conservative energy-use habits at home (such as unplugging computers and other appliances when not in use, avoiding the overuse of AC and heaters, avoiding the use of cars when possible, and by keeping more aware of my water usage). I also strive to keep myself as up-to-date on the latest energy and environment-related legislation as possible. But these are only starting places.

Don’t let worries of the future draw you into complacency in the here-and-now. Don’t let the vastness of the issues at hand convince you that you have no role to play or that the solution lies in the hands of others. Whether you’re an environmentalist or not, if you’re a Christian, you’re an activist—charged to love the world as God loves us, to love and care for the whole package: this fragile Earth, our island home.

Now, my fellow activists, let’s go act. (Now!)

–Katherine Mead-Brewer

Rite III: Spontaneity & Creativity in Worship

Proclaim and Respond to the Word of God:

The proclamation and response may include readings, song, talk, dance, instrumental music, other art forms, silence. A reading from the Gospel is always included.        

–Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1979, pg. 400

 

This past Sunday, The Rev. Mark Stanley focused Forum on the history and use of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP). But what I thought would be a more purely historical lecture quickly surprised me by transforming into a lesson in Episcopal spontaneity and openness. To many, Episcopalians aren’t exactly known for their art, dance, spontaneity, or creativity. Our dedication and focus on the calendar and contents of the BCP is at once what binds us as a denomination, helping laypeople participate more easily and giving us firm ties to our historical foundations, as well as what often labels us in many eyes as staid, deeply ritualistic, and even unwelcoming of change.

This Sunday, however, I learned about a new face of the Episcopal Church and of our Prayer Book—I learned of possibilities like (what’s commonly known as) Rite III, The Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist, a guide to holding an exceptionally more free-form, creative, and spontaneous service than our typical fare. As you may have noticed in my epigraph, our Prayer Book outlines a style of service that not only allows for the possibility of having the congregation respond to the Word of God through dance, but through “other art forms” as well, through any respectful, reverent, and heartfelt art we choose! We could, theoretically, paint our response to the Word. We could (mindfully, lovingly) jazz-scat our response or line dance or write poetry, using our freedom and unique gifts to better pursue and strengthen our relationship with God.

If kids get to worship by putting on pageants in church, then why can’t adults?

If kids get to worship by putting on pageants in church, then why can’t adults?

In 1549, Thomas Cranmer came out with the first Prayer Book to help make worship more inclusive and participatory for the laypeople (helping translate services into English and welcoming laypeople to join the priest in things like saying the Lord ’s Prayer). Since then, the Episcopal Church has updated the Prayer Book four times (we now currently use the 1979 version; though, in the overall Anglican history, the BCP has been revised many times), working to make our services as welcoming, participatory, loving, open, and true to ourselves as possible. And while Cranmer may not have imagined a world where his idea for the Prayer Book allowed for dance, poetry, song, and art as responses to the Word of God, I think it’s safe to say that he would be glad to know the Episcopal Church has kept firmly to its tradition of inclusivity—working to welcome and encourage worship in its congregants that meets them where they are on their faith journeys, that helps them connect to their Creator through the talents and blessings said Creator has bestowed upon them.

I often feel funny in church, because I’m one for whom writing is the best meditation; it’s what helps me think more clearly and creatively about my day, my thoughts, and the world around me. I was the kid in class who was always taking notes, and now in Old St. Paul’s Forums and worship services, I’m that layperson who seems to always be filling up a notebook in between hymns. For me, writing is a way to better connect with not only what I learn in Forum, but what I feel after listening to the choir perform, what occurs to me as I listen to the sermon, and even helps clarify my thinking when it comes time to pray.

While we may not take up the wildness of the Rite III every Sunday as a congregation, know that this doesn’t mean you’re barred from taking it up for yourself whenever you need it. Try bringing a notebook or sketchpad to church with you one Sunday and see how that changes (or doesn’t change) your experience. Don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to approach worship and responding to the Word as best fits and feels right to you.

 

–Katherine Mead-Brewer