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A Litany Against White Supremacy

The author

As Charlottesville, VA becomes the focal point of white supremacy and those who stand against it, this litany was prepared by myself and Pastor Elizabeth Rawlings for use in worship.

Litany against white supremacy

Gracious and loving God,
In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good
We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt.
Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, are rooted in dark skin.
We are all siblings. We are all related.
We are all your children.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.

Violence entered creation through Cain and Abel.
Born of jealousy, rooted in fear of scarcity,
Brother turned against brother
The soil soaked with blood, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are our brothers keeper. Read more

The Spiritual Art of Writing Icons

Jonah and the Fish

When I was diagnosed with cancer while in seminary, I started to question my faith and to question whether I was really following God’s call for my life. I knew I needed to find different spiritual practices to keep me grounded. So I started with the practices I knew: I would read the Bible and pray. Still, I felt like something was missing.

The Visitation

During one of my treatments, I noticed that a woman next to me would look at a card and then close her eyes. She and I began to have a conversation, so I asked about the card in her hand. She was holding a picture of an icon of the Virgin Mary and praying for Mary to intercede on her behalf. The icon itself was beautiful! She brought me a picture of The Visitation icon the next time we met, and I kept it inside my Bible. I enjoyed looking at it and being reminded of Mary and Elizabeth, but I used the icon in a different way.

Later, my husband heard of a local woman who taught iconography. He contacted her, found out there was an opening in one of her weeklong classes during the summer, and asked if I would be interested. Read more

A Conference Story

As young clergy women gathered in Vancouver, Canada, for YCWI’s tenth anniversary conference earlier this July, the scenery was gorgeous and the weather was spectacular. The conference was uplifting, invigorating, challenging, and exciting. The keynote speaker, the Rev. Casey Fitzgerald, inspired us with her biblical storytelling and challenged us to consider where our stories intersect with God’s stories.

One of the things I love about YCWI is that my colleagues already know so much of my story. Indeed, they know much of it without me even having to say a word, because it is our shared story. It is the story of being a young woman ordained to ministry, and all the joys and struggles that go with that – the frustrations of receiving more comments on your hair or shoes than your sermon; the anger of coming up against the stained glass ceiling; the challenges of balancing dating and ministry, or motherhood and ministry. All of that, is held in the knowledge that we are called and gifted by God to serve the church in all that we embody as young women.

These are my people, my village, my church. And they are part of my story. Read more

three traffic cones

Blocked Exits and Holy Ground

three traffic conesFor the fourth day in a row, I was leaving the church building after dark. As my three children and I made our way to the back parking lot after a long day of Bible, Music, and Art Camp, I was feeling guilty. Guilty that we were out past my toddler’s bedtime. Guilty that my kids had eaten pretzels and leftover corndogs from the church refrigerator for supper. Guilty that it had taken me all evening to set up for the next day because I hadn’t lined up any volunteers to help. Guilt weighed me down more than the sleeping three-year-old in my arms. As we trudged across the asphalt toward the car, I was dreading the hour-long commute home and kicking myself for making my kids pay—yet again–for being preacher’s kids.

So when I approached the parking lot exit and saw the tall orange cones that were blocking our path, I might have uttered profanity under my breath. In my exhaustion, I had forgotten about the repair work that had been done to the pavement that morning. I begrudgingly swung the car around, driving slightly recklessly, the way you do when you are grumpy and tired and in an empty parking lot that’s just begging for you to break the rules and exit through the entrance. But when I made the turn at the back of the lot, my headlights landed on two moving figures. I was startled. Who in the world would be hanging out behind the dumpster on the back corner of the church’s property at nine o’clock in the evening? For a few seconds, I suspected violence.

But as I searched for my phone to call for help, I realized that the people in the corner of the lot were praying. Read more

The author’s sons, Isaac and Micah

A Prayer for My Sons

The author’s sons, Isaac and Micah

The author’s sons, Isaac and Micah

A Prayer for My Sons:

God, protect them.
Protect them from ignorance of their privilege and the advantages they will have as white men.
Protect them from entitlement.
Protect them from being indoctrinated into a system of white, male violence against women and against people of color.
Protect them from the temptation to stay silent and complicit when they witness injustice.
Protect them from the illusion that we live in a post-racial society of equality and justice.
Protect them from insular living that might threaten their empathy or release them from righteous anger when any of your children are hurt or in need. Read more

Sometimes We Need the Lines: A Review of the Adult Coloring Trend

adult coloring bookColor me skeptical. When I first noticed craft-store and grocery-store displays of mandala coloring books, artist-quality colored pencils, and overpriced pen sets, all marketed to adults, I winced. Don’t get me wrong. As an artist and former art teacher, I’m excited when the mainstream crowd gives a nod to the arts. And as a children’s minister, I’m equally jazzed when adults trade their carefully constructed decorum for childlike fun. (My sixty-something, always elegant senior minister once raced through an enormous, inflatable bouncy house at our church picnic, and I count it a blessing to have witnessed such joy.) And yet, I felt uneasy about the adult coloring trend. The commercialism of all the mass-produced coloring books raised an initial red flag for me, but the nagging feeling in my stomach didn’t stop there. At first I couldn’t put my finger on the cause of my growing grumpiness, but then it hit me: all the intricately drawn coloring pages seemed controlling. Sure, marketers were touting these books as creative and meditative outlets, but weren’t they really just enticing us to color inside the lines? Read more

A Prayer for the End of Nursing

After Mother and Child, lithograph by Pablo Picasso (1905); charcoal drawing by Austin Shelley (1999)

After Mother and Child, lithograph by Pablo Picasso (1905); charcoal drawing by Austin Shelley (1999)

O Lord, you have searched me
and known me.

You knew the moment when that sweet baby skin
first touched my chest
when that sweet little mouth
gaped like a fish
when that shocking moment of connection was made:
Mother. Child. One.
You knew.

You knew the struggles, and the pain.
The mostly sleepless nights
The one- (two-) (three-) (three-thirty-) a.m. wake-up calls.
The disconcerting, disorientating, barely-functioning
delirium/delusion/hallucination/exasperation/rage…
And still
the sweet baby skin and the gaping little mouth
the instant peace and the murmuring suckling.
You knew.

Read more

A Prayer for Syria… A Prayer for Peace

Women PrayAs I write this, the world waits to see if (or, sadly, when) the U.S. and its allies may launch some sort of military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for the country’s use of chemical weapons last week. Indeed, the news reports and gruesome images of the ongoing violence occurring in that region have been difficult to watch. Even before the recent use of chemical weapons, thousands upon thousands have been killed. The recent attack involving chemical weapons has resulted in some nations – including the United States, Great Britain, and Germany – announcing their intent to hold the Syrian government accountable for its actions. Now, with the threat of retaliation of these countries who believe they need to intervene, many of us wonder how far and wide the violence may spread.

Sisters and brothers – let us pray for God to be present as we face this current struggle.

Creating One, Holy Parent of all the world, have mercy on us.

Redeeming One, Blessed Child of the Almighty, have mercy on us.

Sustaining One, Wondrous Spirit of the Eternal, have mercy on us.

O God, you created all people in your Divine Image. We praise you for the beautiful diversity that exists in your creation. In your wisdom, you call us to live as neighbors with one another – despite our differences. You call us to embrace one another in the name of your peace and your love.

God, we come to you in this hour with hearts that ache for countries that are in turmoil: countries that have become locations of horrific violence and strife. We pray especially for Syria. We cry with those who have lost loved ones. We weep for the thousands who have perished. We pray that the hardened hearts of those who have abused others may be softened by your Spirit.

Lord, for the countries that have threatened retaliation against Syria, we pray that they be guided into the ways of your truth and your justice. For the countries that have threatened retaliation against anyone who strikes out against Syria, we pray for your patience and peace to prevail. Encourage all leaders to make careful decisions – to seek peace over pride. Holy One, teach us to understand that an eye for an eye is not a solution – it only causes us to stumble about in the dark with no vision.

We know that there is a time for everything under heaven, O God. There are those who would have this be a time of war; but we pray – we plead, Blessed Savior – for this to be a time of peace. Teach us all – in every nation – to beat our swords into plowshares. Direct our hearts and our hands to transform our spears into pruning hooks. Let this be the moment when we begin to truly let your peace rule in our hearts and lives, for we are tired of war.

Creating One, Holy Caretaker of the cosmos, have mercy on us.

Redeeming One, Blessed Prince of Peace, have mercy on us.

Sustaining One, Enlightening Spirit of God, have mercy on us.

Amen.

Words for Worship: A Collection of Prayers

medium_8770102292A Prayer for when Natural Disasters strike:

Holy God,

You created the earth, and it is Good. You created the universe, and it is Good.  At times we blame and curse the universe for the bad things that happen; we blame and curse the earth for the natural disasters we face. God, call us away from cursing into lives of blessing. Help us to share out of our resources with those in need. Call us to use our hands and feet to act in recovery efforts and in arms that reach out. Guide our hearts to remember all who have lost so much.

We are grateful, God, for the first responders who gave up fear and instead gave into hope to rescue others. We are grateful, God, for all those who have rushed to help, to pledge their resources, to bring comfort. We are grateful, God, for churches and schools who have flung open their doors to be homes for the homeless. We are grateful, God, for the hearts that have been broken open.

And we grieve, Holy God, for all those who have been lost. We mourn with the families who have lost loved ones, especially children. Creator God, who loves us like a mother and father, we cannot fathom the grief that is being experienced in this time. Call us away from the simple answers and responses that cannot heal wounds so deep. Keep us instead to the hope that is in You, the hope of resurrection, the hope of new life.

In the name of Christ, the one who brings us healing, the one who brings us hope, the one who leads us into life, we pray. Amen.

 

A Litany/Call to Worship for United States Independence Day/Canada Day Weekend:

Leader: God of all Nations, call us into Your family.
People: We welcome all people of all cultures and languages, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leader: God of all ages past and present, call us into Your family.
People: We walk hand in hand with our seniors and our children, called to be present and share with our homebound and our young ones, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leader: God of Diversity, call us into Your family.
People: We embrace all people on the margins, including those of different genders and sexual orientations, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leader: God of the Poor, God of the Hungry, God of the Oppressed, call us into Your family.
People: We will speak up and seek justice for all those who suffer, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leader: God of Creation, call us into Your family.
People: Call us to embrace and love, to bless and uphold, to remember we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather to worship You

 

A Prayer for United States Independence Day/Canada Day Weekend:

Loving God, we give You thanks for the wonders of creation, especially our diversity that is a wonderful gift. As we celebrate our nation’s holidays this week, Canada Day and Independence Day, we give thanks for the diversity of cultures and languages that make up our nations. Remind us of the people who have been forgotten, the people who lived here before many of us came to be. Help us to honor not only the forefathers and foremothers of the current nation but to honor the grandmothers and grandfathers of the peoples of North America, that we may not forget all the people who have called this place home. Help us to reach out to those who are oppressed and marginalized in our country, help us to speak up and be the voice for the voiceless, and remind us to be in solidarity, sharing what we have, including our voice and power. In the name of Jesus the Christ, who came in order that the world might be saved through him, we pray. Amen.

 

A Prayer for Trinity Sunday or Father’s Day:

Abba, Father, Mother, Creator–we call You by many names, but the names we choose show our relationship with You. We desire to draw closer to You, O God. We desire to hear Your voice above the chatter of the world, to know Your ways and to walk in them. Spirit of Life, Wind and Breath among us, we feel You move through us, guiding us on our journey, inspiring us to share Your love with others. Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of us all, our Brother and Friend, we desire to walk in Your ways and to love one another as You have first loved us. Triune God, we desire to relate to You and to each other more fully, so that we might draw into the depths of Your love, first glimpsed at creation, when Your voice called us and the earth forth out of darkness into Your light. Continue to call us, guide us and lead us into this world and beyond. Amen.

 

A Prayer for the Season after Pentecost:

Glorious God, we give You thanks for the seasons, for warmth and cold, sun and rain. We give You thanks in times of hope and fear, in times of frustration and calm, in times of unbalance and peace. We know that You are always present with us. When we fall into times of doubt, draw us out, O Lord. When we stumble into times of despair from the unjust world around us, lift us up, O Lord. When we see injustice around us and we feel hopeless, strengthen us and give us courage, O Lord. We are called to do Your work in our world; grant us Your wisdom, fill us with Your hope and stir in us Your desire to build up the family of God. In the name of our Creator, Christ and Spirit that fills us, we pray. Amen.

Backpack Blessings

This will be the third year we do a backpack prayer at our church.  We announce for several weeks before that all children are invited to bring their backpacks with them to church on the Sunday before school starts (here that is usually the last Sunday in July!!).  During the time for children, we invite them all to come forward, and we talk a little bit about going back to school, and what is exciting, and what is scary, and what is fun. Then each child gets a postcard sized card with a clip-art of a backpack on it for them to color and a prayer.  The back is left blank for them to write their own prayer when they get home.  The card can then be tucked into the child’s backpack as a reminder all year that they are prayed for while they are at school.   We have a large number of teachers in our congregation, so this year, we will be making a card for them as well, with a different prayer.

The prayer for the children that is printed on the card is:

Loving God, be with me today when I go to school.  Sometimes it is scary, and sometimes it is hard.  Sometimes it is exciting, and sometimes it is fun.  I know that no matter what happens today, you are with me.  Help me to learn from my teachers every day.  You gave us the gift of learning.  Help me to remember to show my thanks to you by doing my best everyday.  Amen.

For Teachers:  

Oh God, you have called me to teach your children in this community.  Be with me today when I go to school.  Help me do my best to be patient and kind, no matter what this day brings.  Give me courage and strength when they are needed, and a spirit of fun and energy.  May the minutia of administration and paperwork not be draining.  Help me use the gifts you have given me to nurture and shape the children in my care.  Amen.

 

Julie Jensen is the Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Mission at First Presbyterian Church in Cartersville, GA.  When she is not trying to stay out of the heat, you will find her knitting, cooking, and trying to make something grow in her garden.

Photo Credit: by o5comm, http://www.flickr.com/photos/o5com/5302863243/ Used by permission of Creative Common License 2.0.