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Prayer Service to Stand Against Racism

June 24, 2020 by Rev. Sam McGlothlin and Rev. Dr. Paula Smith

This short, 15-minute liturgy was written for a prayer service held at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN on June 5, 2020, in prayerful solidarity with the public outcry against systemic racism following the killing of George Floyd in May. Participants are invited to use their bodies as they pray, including kneeling on one knee for over 8 minutes if they are able.

Embodied Prayers for Pardon and Power

We raise our hands and we remember Mike Brown who said, “Don’t shoot,” whose innocent cries were unjustly ignored, and we remember all whose bodies are assumed guilty in life and in death.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We touch our necks and we remember Eric Garner who said, “I can’t breathe,” and we remember all those who have had the breath of life choked out of them.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We touch our backs and we remember Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed by police brutality, who asked for medical help and received none, and we remember all who have died at the hands of those who are meant to protect.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We hold our hands at the height of a child and we remember Tamir Rice, who as a 12 year old was not allowed to play, and we remember the many unnamed and unarmed children who have died at the hands of adults who refuse to confront their prejudice.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We lay on the ground with our hands behind our backs and remember Sandra Bland who asked 14 times why she was being arrested. We confess that systems of white supremacy assert power over black bodies with no regard for explanations.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As we remain on the ground, we remember Breonna Taylor who was killed while she was sleeping in her own home, and we grieve that we have been asleep to this injustice in America for so long.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We stand up and look down at our shoes and we remember Ahmaud Arbery, who was hunted down and killed by white men espousing vigilante justice while jogging in his neighborhood. We remember all who cannot simply walk, run, or live without fear because of the color of their skin.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We fall to one knee and remember George Floyd, who was killed in broad daylight, who said “I can’t breathe”, who called for his mama, who pleaded for his life. We remember the horror and terror black men and women have endured at the hands of white people. And now we hold silence for 8 mins to honor his life, not his oppressor.

Silence.

     God in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

You’re invited to stand.

We cover our mouths and apologize for all the times we fell silent. We confess to you all the times we did not speak up when we should have.

     God in your mercy, forgive us.

We uncover our mouths and we ask for courage to speak. We pray to be like Jeremiah, who said, “God’s word is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” We pray to be prophets of your freedom.

     God in your power, give us strength.

We cup our ears and we commit to listening to the lament of all bodies put on display, used as a warning, and made to carry their own execution tools.

     God in your power, give us strength.

We touch our feet and we commit ourselves to walking with one another; to marching; to teaching; to preaching; to healing; to encouraging; to empowering.

     God in your power, give us strength.

We lock eyes with one another and we affirm one another’s goodness. We see one another’s value; we appreciate one another’s gifts.

     God in your power, give us strength.

We reach our arms out to one another and we commit ourselves yet again to being one with each other and one in the world. One flesh, one spirit, one body—God’s body.

     God in your power, give us strength.

We raise our voices and we say together: “We will speak up against racism.”

     We will speak up against racism.

We will act against racism.

     We will act against racism.

We will seek God’s justice and peace.

     We will seek God’s justice and peace.

     God in your power, give us strength.

Depart in silence.


About the writers

Rev. Sam McGlothlin serves as the Associate Pastor of Belle Meade United Methodist Church, (Nashville, Tennessee).

Rev. Dr. Paula Smith serves as the Pastor of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church (Nashville, Tennessee).

For a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism, click here.

 


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