The murder of eight people who were at Bible Study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC moved me to share my prayer as part of worship at the 2015 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Grove City, Pennsylvania. The prayer . . .
Our Lord and Our God,
We honor your holy name. We praise you in this traditional time of worship and also in the midst of conference business. May this gathering of people be open to the Holy Spirit in facing racism.
We often struggle to praise you Lord in our sorrow and pain some of which is a result of racism. God we are a nation and a community of Christian believers in terrible psychic pain as injustice sadly persists after centuries of racism. We bring our collective suffering, our pain to the altar, to the holy of Holies.
Lord God, you have blessed our country with core democratic values founded in life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice. Practicing justice eradicates injustice including racism. We seek you God because the idea of justice does not always match our reality in the U.S. and in our own churches. In Isaiah 1:17, your Word tells us: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” We cry out to you God to transform each of us in the name of justice fight for and protect those oppressed by racism.
We remember those who have suffered and continue to suffer out of the tyranny of racism.
Naming past and present injustices is a step towards healing in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord: Enslavement of Africans . . . Lynching of African Americans . . . Japanese internment camps . . . colonization of Native Americans . . . Native Americans relegated to reservations . . . polarization over undocumented immigrants including Latinos/as . . . the demographic shift from the white majority to an ethnic majority. I pray for all impacted by the tensions rooted in racism and a fear of diversity.
I remember people I have briefly encountered for just a few moments over my lifetime. Their faces are burned into my memory.
- A middle-aged African American woman slammed on the hood of a car by a white police officer
- A mentally ill African American man in an affluent white neighborhood surrounded by 10 police cars filled with officers
- Police with guns and batons standing above teen male Latino and African Americans sitting on a curb
Some have stories of racism that are our own. Others have witnessed the racist acts and words against others. Let us us take a moment to silently in prayer lift up people who have been impacted by the history of racism and who experience racism today.
I pray for courage to defy racism. I pray for courage to speak up for justice. I pray for courage to speak up for equality. I pray for transparency and honesty with one another. I pray that the damaging acts that grow out of the ugliness of racism will be no more. I pray for our ethnic clergy and laity each of whom has their own stories experiencing racism first hand in this conference.
Finally, God heal this conference. And strengthen those who have long been in the trenches fighting racism and are now weary. We humbly bring these requests to you. Amen