Prayers in this time of violence, grief, and fear

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP, 260)

A Prayer for the Whole Human Family.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 815)

A Prayer for Social Justice.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 823)

Prayer for Victims of Terrorism

Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.

A Prayer for First Responders

Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.– adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal

For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of Massachusetts, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

For Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

A 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.

How #Ferguson changed me

Jamelle Bouie has a piece on Slate in which he reflects on the year since Michael Brown’s death and how it has changed America.

As I read it, I began thinking about how I had been changed by Ferguson. I think it was this photo (shot by Whitney Curtis of the New York Times) that did it:


That photo captures a key dynamic in contemporary America: a militarized police force that apparently regards African-Americans as the enemy to be subjugated by means of any force necessary. It’s a photo of White Supremacy and racism exposed for what it is. It’s a photo of our America, an image I can’t get out of my mind because it reveals all of our hypocrisy as well as the evil at the heart of American culture and history.

I went back through my blog to look at how I’ve addressed racism over the years. It’s quite telling. Before the release of the Race to Equity report that detailed the horrific racial disparities in Madison and Dane County, there’s a smattering of references to racism on my blog. Since Ferguson, it’s probably the dominant topic. I’ve preached about it, written about, participated in demonstrations. I’ve read more about racism in the last year than I had in the decades since taking a course on African-American history in college. Racism and America’s culture of violence will be a major focus of our programming at Grace in the coming year.

Boo goes through the litany of deaths and protests and at the end of his recitation, he points out how politicians, mainstream media, and corporations have been forced to address issues of racism. At the end of it all, he writes:

If Ferguson was an earthquake—a tectonic shift in our arguments over race and racism—then a year later, we’re not just feeling the aftershocks. We’re preparing for the next blow.

Bouie did not mention how Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter have changed American Christianity and I’m looking forward to reading similar retrospectives from theologians and religious commentators.



Has the backlash begun? Is there a connection between the flag and recent church burnings?

The speed with which Southern political and economic elites have rushed to abandon the confederate flying on or near public buildings has shocked many of us who are familiar with the ways those same elites have pandered to white fear and racism over the decades. As welcome as the removal of the flag is, it is only another step on the long road to rooting out racism throughout the US. And I think that one reason it is so popular right now is that it’s a way for Northerners to once again feel their smug superiority over the South.  I’m only somewhat surprised that legislatures and city councils in northern states haven’t passed resolutions demanding its removal in the South.

At the same time, we can expect a powerful backlash, and not just from the conservative media machine (although with today’s ruling on the ACA, their attention and outrage may change its focus). But that’s not where the real backlash is taking place. I suspect that in diners, bars, and on talk radio throughout rural America, white Americans are voicing their anger and outrage as confederate flags come down. No doubt, some of that outrage will be acted out.

Is it just coincidence that a church fire in Charlotte, NC this week was labeled arson, and that a church fire in Macon, GA is suspected arson, all other causes having been ruled out?

Naming the Horror–Racism

This unimaginable horror–perpetrated by someone so steeped in racism and racial hatred that he identified with South African apartheid as well as the Confederate States of America–perpetrated by someone who killed nine people after sitting with them and praying with them for an hour …

This horrific act has opened the wound that lays bare the racism at the heart and soul of America, a racism that expresses itself in ways large and small, from little daily indignities to state-sanctioned murder, that makes African-Americans fear for their lives whether they are running an errand to a convenience store, playing in a park, or praying in a church.

Words cannot express the horror, not only the horror of these acts that take place on a continual, relentless basis, but the horror that is at the heart of our nation, our society. But words are what we have, and we have people who can give expression to the horror at the heart of our nation, and the horror that it is to live as an African-American in this nation.

Among those words that have moved me in the past two days:

from Osagyefu Sekou:

They were killed because of their love. They welcomed a stranger and gave him a home as he plotted their demise. This is the best of black church — unconditional love. To love in the face of white supremacy is nothing less than a revolutionary act.

From Stacia l. Brown:

When we doubt, the friends who believe alongside us are often the light that keep us drawing nigh, lest we float away. We hold onto them when horror rushes in. We remind them, “Whatever you do, don’t let go of the Word.” In that moment, they are the Word in motion. And if we must die, for welcoming the troubled white supremacist 21-year-old whose boyish face looks as innocent as the brain behind it is wicked, if we must die for praying alongside him, if we must continue waging a war as unfathomable as it is unseen, there is no one better to be with in the end, than the people who kept us feeling closest to God when we felt farthest away.

From Broderick Greer:

There is nothing isolated about the violence exacted upon black people by law enforcement officers, vigilantes or terrorists. When police officers or extrajudicial neighborhood watchmen shoot dead descendants of this nation’s formerly enslaved population, they are recommitting themselves to the white American tradition of squashing out black life at every juncture possible. Over the past three years alone, I’ve learned that – in the social economy of white American supremacy – black people can’t walk to a convenience store, ask for assistance after a car accident, play with a toy gun or study the Bible without the looming reality of the violent white gaze.

and Jon Stewart:

“I honestly have nothing other than sadness that once again we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist. I’m confident though that by acknowledging it — by staring into — we still won’t do jack shit.”

Clergy marching for justice and peace in Madison

On Friday May 8th an unprecedented meeting of faith leaders was held here in the MUM offices. We came together over the systemic injustices that exist in our County and out of concern for our community.  Attached you will find a letter  from that coalition reflecting the purpose and outcome of that meeting. We know that as clergy and people of faith we are called across traditions to work for justice. Our meeting on May 8th represents the beginning of our work as a faith coalition, we recognize that there is much, much more to be done and we pledge to continue
TomorrowTuesday, May 12th at 2:30 p.m. the District Attorney will announce his decision regarding the officer involved shooting of Tony Robinson. We know that the decision, regardless of what it is, will not heal our divided and suffering community. We know that our community will still be in pain.
At 2:30  p.m. tomorrow, May 12th, Clergy and members of faith communities from throughout Dane County are invited to gather outside the residence where Tony Robinson was killed. We will join in prayer and song and at 5:00 p.m. we will march down Williamson Street to Grace Episcopal Church for more prayer and song we will then march to the Dane County Courthouse.
We  ask that you join us as people of faith in calling for racial justice in our community, in action, and in our support of the letter sent by the African American Council of churches to of Dane County law enforcement officials (also attached). Please feel free to share this announcement with others as you see fit.

From Ferguson to Madison

I woke this morning to hear the horrible news that a Madison police officer shot and killed a 19-year old African-American man yesterday evening. The incident took place on Williamson St., which is the heart of Madison’s east-side progressive neighborhood. Here’s the story from the Madison State-Journal

This comes less than a week after gunfire in the parking lot of Westtowne Mall forced its early closure last Saturday. After that event and several other shootings, the official word was that these incidents were gang-related. Earlier this week, arrests were made in those shootings.

Over the last couple of years, the progressive veneer has been stripped from our city, revealing the ugly underside of racism, division, and deep disparities between black and white. These incidents have brought the horrors of that reality to the very heart of where white Madison lives, works, and plays.

It also couldn’t come at a worse time. We are in the midst of a mayoral election and our relatively new police chief hasn’t handled issues of racism very well in his tenure. With the political turmoil in our state, our community as a whole has been struggling to find a way forward.

My prayers go out, for the repose of the soul of Tony Robinson, to his family and friends, to the officer involved and to all members of Madison’s police force, and to our city.




The Cross, the Lynching Tree, the Chokehold

The real scandal of the gospel is this: humanity’s salvation is revealed in the cross of the condemned criminal Jesus, and humanity’s salvation is available only through our solidarity with the crucified people in our midst. Faith that emerged out of the scandal of the cross is not a faith of intellectuals or elites of any sort. This is the faith of abused and scandalized people—the losers and the down and out. It was this faith that gave blacks the strength and courage to hope, “to keep on keeping on,” …. The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, shameful events, instruments of punishment reserved for the most despised people in society. Any genuine theology and any genuine preaching of the Christian gospel must be measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.

James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Read Theology of Ferguson on Medium