Pastoral Prayer – Violence and Grief
The following pastoral prayer was offered by The Rev. Sarah Henkel at the White Plains Presbyterian Church on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 16, 2012. The Prayer followed the sermon and call to action to eliminate gun violence, and a hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
Eternal Light and Life,
We are gathered here to sing and pray our way through grief. We bring before you in the presence of our hearts and minds, the lives lost to gun violence. We do not know all of their names, we do not know the exact weight and shape of the grief their absence creates in lives of their friends and families. What is certain is that it is love that causes the ache and that we know well as mothers and fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses, as family. It is the beauty and sacredness of each life lost that catches our breath, that leaves us speechless for a moment as we run through the images in our mind of the mother sitting stunned on her child’s empty bed or a congregation in shock with no sanctuary from violence.
We light candles today to create a space for our grief. We light candles today to honor each life lost on Tuesday in Oregon, on Friday in Connecticut, and for Darlene, the Presbyterian organist in Pennsylvania, 32 lives lost and one more candle for the many survivors of childhood trauma and violence and for all lives who have been affected by violence, for whom the horror of this past week is deeply personal, reopening old wounds still in need of Christ’s healing touch. In silence now we remember and grieve.
Silence was kept as 33 candles were lit and a bell tolled to honor each life.
In this Advent season of expectation, we did not expect the horrific events of this week. We are reminded again by the brokenness of this world that ours is an active expectation. We do not wait passively for a savior nor turn our back on the suffering in this world to wait for a future kingdom. That is not our calling. We wait with bodies, minds, and souls crying out and already preparing the new creation. And this is the joy we cling to: that together our voices are amplified as we cry out, “No more! Never again!” to the forces of violence and sing out, “Glory to God whose goodness shines on us”, who strengthens us and inspires us to be co-creators of a world ruled by peace.
Glory to God whose goodness shines on this faith community…who walks with us through the pain and sorrow, who rejoices with us in the celebrations and joy of our lives. We lift up these prayers to you today:
[intercessions were offered]
We pray that you would guide us forward in this coming week whether we are seeking healing or called on to be a healer. Walk with us as we spend time with grief in prayer during these days. Comfort, comfort your people. Amen.