Prayer of July 2, 2023

this prayer was given at Community Church of New York

I invite you to find a posture of dignity that allows you 

to receive, to soften, to be ready for 

possibility, insight, grief, joy 

to find their shape within you. 

That and more, or less, at this time of stillness 

that some calm meditation, some call prayer.

We are living in a terrain ravaged

by those with the now~ignominious title of justice,

as the high court’s brutality reveals

fidelity not to a land of liberty for all, but for the few,

this, of course, not being the first time

they have thusly revealed themselves.

Nor likely the last.

Beloveds, let us lament.

We know the damage will be, in the lived details, not the documents*.

The damage will be lived out by some we know personally ~

by which I mean some in this room, by which I mean possibly you ~

and by many not known personally to us but known by us

to be of deep and inherent worthiness, those whose identities are targeted

in the ragged and roiling waters of this wretched and rising fascism.

Friends, let us organize.

Spirit of Life and Love, today we have sung by the Rivers of Babylon.

We ask it be a melodic AND evocative echo, connecting us with the great oratory

of Frederick Douglass, when he spoke in 1852 of the meaning of so-called Independence Day,

speaking the lyrics of that song as he courageously named the hypocrisy of the holiday. 

Hear now his words from that speech:

At a time like this, scorching irony,

not convincing argument, is needed.

O! had I the ability,

and could I reach the nation’s ear,

I would, to-day, pour out

a fiery stream of biting ridicule,

blasting reproach, withering sarcasm,

 and stern rebuke.

For it is not light that is needed, but fire;

 it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.

We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

The feeling of the nation must be quickened;

 the conscience of the nation must be roused;

the propriety of the nation must be startled;

 the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed;

and its crimes against God and man

must be proclaimed and denounced.

Spirit of Life and Love, may we, in this time of a tale of two ships,

the one with 500 drown migrants neglected

while the one enthralling us with a handful of wealthy scions,

may we bring our sympathies to both and all

and our solidarity to those most marginalized.

May we, in this time of harsh heat waves, desiccating droughts,

and smoky air that stings the eye, that burns the throat,

that squeezes the airways of every living creature,

may we create refuges and sanctuaries for each other,

and the most vulnerable among us.

May we, in this time of great shift in our own faith movement,

make the time to sing praise and shout hosanna

for the six good years of service as president by Rev. Susan Frederick Gray.

And perhaps, even louder singing and even shoutier hosanna

for the new president, Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt.

For the next few moments, let us welcome stillness into our bodies and our minds,

perhaps connecting with that yearning only our hearts know, until the chime rings again.


* thank you to Elizabeth Curtiss, whose words inspired this section of the prayer

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