At my church, between the homily and the Eucharist, a member of the congregation stands in the pulpit and reads a series of petitions to which we in the pews respond “Lord, hear our prayer.” Though all the rest of the service follows a beautiful ritual that is the same every week, these petitions offered in our name are a moment of profound spontaneity. I find myself wondering as the reader mounts the steps just what the liturgist will have asked us to focus on this week.
Today, the 12th of August in the year 2018, I knew that there was to be a march in Washington, D.C. later in the day, held by the same group that just a year ago marched in Charlottesville, VA, carrying torches and chanting obscenely racist, anti-Semitic, zenophobic slogans. This group of hateful people ended up killing one young woman–Heather Heyer–and wounding about a score more counter-demonstrators. I thought we might be asked to pray for an end to violence in the world as some sort of general plea for sanity. I was wonderfully wrong. Here’s what we were asked to pray for:
For all those who believe in the God of Abraham–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–and that our leaders will work to build harmony among all faiths. For an end to discrimination of all sorts, especially on the basis of skin color. For the original inhabitants of this country, that our governments will treat them with dignity and respect. For early immigrants who crossed our borders looking for a better life. For immigrants crossing our borders today, especially for the children.
As each wonderful invocation followed the next, I just stood there and wept with gratitude to my church for finding a way to respond to the violence and hatred by too many for people different from them in some important way. I also stood a little taller with pride to be a member of a congregation that responded with genuine energy as we made our usual response. Several people near me seemed to be speaking with more volume and conviction than usual, so I choose to believe they were feeling some of what I was feeling. Our priest has asked us on several occasions as he has been speaking to the many deep flaws in the hierarchy of Roman Catholicism to “be the church you want the church to be.” This is not just a palindromic clause–it is a mantra to live by, day by day and in all avenues of our lives. This morning, our group prayers to the God of our varied understandings achieved that lofty goal with clarity and conviction.