The hearts of our staff at Mission Year were heavy on our weekly prayer call. It was the morning after the grand jury decision in Ferguson and there was a lot of disappointment, pain, and anger. Many of us were struggling with words to say and prayers to pray. Instead of listing a litany of prayer requests, we shared in a litany of lament and hope. A staff member found this liturgy to help direct our emotions and prayers. I hope it is helpful for you and your community during this time of frustration and grief.
How much longer will terror grip families, neighborhoods and cities … terror caused by unjust systems that prey on the vulnerability of people, especially communities of color?
How much longer will the expectation of heartbreak, suffering and death be a way of life for too many?
How much longer will it take for war zones to become zones of safety and well being?
How much longer will the stench of death, misery, tear gas and bullets eclipse the beauty of creation in neighborhoods?
How much longer will the collective memory of a people no longer remember a quiet night during which to sleep?
How much longer do parents have to wail primal cries of anguish at the inhuman conditions heaped upon their families?
How much longer do parents have to live under bone-crushing suspicion that their children will be accused of wrong-doing when out on the street?
How much longer do parents have to continue burying their children while being unable to fully grieve since there are more deaths and more children to lay to rest?
How much longer will neighborhoods who have a basic human right for safety have to confront the growing militarization of their police forces who were once committed to serving its people?
How much longer do children have to endure the ravages of terror, trauma and confusion wondering what they did to deserve such fear, dread and insecurity?
How much longer will neighborhoods all over this country, who are at the tipping point from continuing racial oppression and systemic misuse of power, hold on?
How much longer will we stand by shaking our heads at the sadness of it all … before we join in solidarity with one another and work towards “liberty and justice for all?”
As a simple beginning, we match our Litany of Lamentation with a Litany of Hope, praying from the core of our beings that violence and hatred cease:
Side One: Side Two:
When hatred dominates… …may we announce by our lives the primacy of love.
When we are seriously offended… …may we offer forgiveness.
When conflict is rampant… …may we offer to build peace.
When error is entrenched… …may we proclaim truth
When doubt paralyzes… …may we awaken faith.
When distress weighs heavily… …may we re-vitalize hope.
When heaviness and despair overwhelm… …may we bring an air of healing.
When sadness reigns… …may we liberate the joy within us.
When betrayed by love… …may we be open to healing.
When confronted by evil… …may we proclaim that ‘goodness’ is stronger.
When our hearts are wrenched by injustice… …may we be steadfast in working to promote and proclaim ‘peace with justice.’
(Shawn Casselberry is the Executive Director of Mission Year and lives in Chicago, Illinois)