The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), in partnership with the Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC), held a Prayer Service for members of Congress, their staffs, and all who work at and protect the U.S. Capitol building.
The Prayer Service was organized to bear witness to the trauma and destruction caused by the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and, through compassionate interfaith sharing and mutual support, to bring comfort and hope to all who work at the Capitol complex.
The public portion of the Prayer Service was streamed on NCC’s Facebook and YouTube channels from 11:30am ET to 12:30pm ET on Friday, January 15, 2021. This service offered a safe space for reflection, lament, and hope and welcomed all to attend.
Prayer for Traumatized Congressional Staff After the Capitol Assault – Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, of heaven and earth, unequalled in power and matchless in strength, we thank you for hearing the prayers today of your children for protection after the devastating U.S. Capitol assault. God, we confess right now, that we were traumatized, horrified, and stupefied when hate, lies, and conspiracy theories exploded into a brazen and shameless effort to halt the democratic process of certifying a new duly chosen leader of our nation. As frightening as it was for lawmakers, staff and some Capitol police under seize and threat for their very, we praise you with our whole hearts for what you did not allow to happen. We lift up the families of the police officers and others killed —for every life has value to you.
Even now O God, when congressional staff are still shaken by the harrowing, life threatening experience, remind them that you, alone, their refuge, their strength, their rock, and their protection.
We pray especially that you would undergird the congressional staff in a circle of love and care as they continue to provide moral and professional support for their Congress Member and others on their staff team.
In the days ahead, help them to walk in the spirit of Psalm 138.7
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.”
Even now, O Merciful God, we pray you would break down every dividing wall of acrimony, distrust, and fear between Congressional members. In this hour of national crisis, engage one another respectfully, that they may honor their constitutional commitment and do with excellent and integrity the people’s business in the peoples House.
Lord, we ask you to move us all in the days ahead to love you by turning TO and not ON one another, as those tasked with an investigation bring inside and outside perpetrators to justice. Continue to watch over, these, your children Lord, even with a Capitol under military protection unknown since the Civil War to ensure the inauguration of a new leader.
We pray, O Righteous God, that you would expose every plot, plan or scheme for violent take down on our national and local governments. May what the enemy of God meant for evil, now be turned into good, as we each do our part to help heal our fractured and hurting nation. And may we each pledge to see you your children of every background as you see them, until love overtakes hate, peace with justice outstrips violence and mayhem, and care for the least of these our brothers and sisters become our shared vocation. Today, on the day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, remind us all of his powerful words, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In your mighty, matchless, and magnificent name we pray Lord, God, AMEN.”
The Occasion – Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada
“Why are we here? We are here because on January 6, not only the processes but the very places in which our democracy does its work—the people’s business in the people’s house— was violently and intentionally assaulted.
We are here because duly elected officials in that building on that day feared for their very lives; their staffs and all those present were traumatized.
We are here because a mob espousing racist, bigoted, white supremacist, Christian nationalist philosophies felt that they were in the right by taking such such violent means to combat, to reverse the processes of the people.
We are here because 5 people died.
We are here because to lament means to tell the truth, and on January 6, the clear disparity between how those who stormed the Capitol that day were treated versus the way in which largely peaceful protestors from Black Lives Matter and other movements have been treated in recent months was clear and stark and troubling.
We are here because we need to gather, we need to lament, and we need to tell the truth about what happened on that day. America has yet to deal with her original sin of racism. America has yet to tell the truth.
We are here because we are people of faith who call on the Holy by different names, and yet we all espouse this ethic, this principle, this human necessity for love. Not love in warm and fuzzy ways, but love in hard and tough and real ways, love that simply acknowledges that we declare each other to be human, and respect one another as human beings created by the Holy, by that which we call Divine.
We are here because in each of our traditions, we refuse simply to stop at lament. We all insist on telling the truth, and we all hold on to hope as a way to move forward.
We are all thinking about the words of Dr. King this weekend. Dr. King reminded us that physical force can never be creative or redemptive, only love can do that. And so as we are justly angry, as we are justly sad, as we are justly frustrated, we hold close to the faith that reminds us that in order to move forward we must do so with love; we must do so by telling the truth so that justice can truly reign, and so that there can be peace. As Dr. King said, “Peace is not the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”
So we are here. And in this time of lament and hope and prayer, I pray that we will all have the courage to imagine who we must be as people of faith in order to shape the future, in order to restore the integrity of what has been shattered within our own democracy. Let us tell the truth, let us lament, let us pray, let us hope, and let us see that truth will march on, and let us ensure that our nation will continue to endure.”
Prayer of Lament – Rev. Jen Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
“Oh Lord, give ear to our words,
Give heed to our tears this morning;
Bend your ear to our inconsolable rage and despair,
For we gather before you with our hearts broken
Our souls weary;
Our very being shaken to the core.
The Rotunda that reverently held the body of John Lewis not long ago;
Now carries the abomination of confederate flags and anti-semitic slurs;
Now holds the detritus of a battle for white supremacy;
Now holds the boots of armed soldiers who must remain vigilant.
Oh Lord our lives are in jeopardy, not from foreign invaders
but from within; by those elected to uphold democracy but who instead perpetuate lies
Those would jeopardize all our lives for selfish gain.
Those who have feverishly closed their minds and hearts to the depravity of their deeds.
Our enemies have surrounded us;
They plot against democracy even now;
Our security forces have told us that
The coup still underway;
Even now, even when their deeds are done in broad daylight and captured on social media;
They refuse repentance; they refuse to take responsibility for their deeds.
They cry peace where there is no peace;
They call for unity on the basis of deceit.
If only they would repent and do justice.
For your plan for human dignity is like water in the desert;
Your everlasting love and forgiveness a balm to the soul;
If only they would turn their face toward you,
So that together we might heal this nation.
Oh God, Listen to our cries today;
Touch our broken hearts;
Stiffen our spines;
For many are those who claim to do your bidding;
They dare call themselves Christians;
Yet reject the God of love;
They do not follow the God whose love is for all people;
The God who leads us out from Egypt;
They worship instead the idols of bloodthirsty and power hungry tyrant gods;
The gods of nationalism; racism and greed.
Give ear to our words O LORD
Give heed to our sighing
For the enemies of democracy traffic in lies
They profit on conspiracy; they incite violence and exploit vulnerable minds;
They shred the very foundations of unity by destroying truth itself.
On every side the wicket prowl as vileness is exalted among humankind.
Rise up Oh God of truth and justice;
Confront them; Soften their hearts;
May we fall ind rest in your love;
Hope in your righteousness;
And courage in your mighty compassion;
May we be your servants;
For your promises oh lord are promises that are pure;
You O Lord will protect us
For you love righteousness and you despise wickedness;
You will guard us and guide us in your ways forever.”
REFLECT, LAMENT AND HOPE In Due Season – Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
WE ARE IN A SEASON OF SHOCK, SADNESS, DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
A SEASON WHEN THE CALL TO REFLECT, LAMENT AND HOPE IS AN ACT OF GRACE.
I consider myself to be a calm, rational, empathetic person. I try to be a good listener and discerning enough to offer counsel to others on occasion. Our ministerial and leadership roles often require us to serve like first responders – running toward the grief, pain and trauma of others, serving while we are yet wounded healers, gripped by the imposter syndrome as we try to go through the motions with or own stuff bottled up inside.
Even as a woman of strong faith, this past week I too have prayed and cried, and prayed and cried, not really clear to say or do right away.
I thank the NCC for helping us to take the time to be still – to allow our spiritual practices to serve not just as a balm for others but for each of us as well.
The last four years have been emotionally challenging and the last 2 months have been unbelievable. Last week was A SEASON OF UNCONSCIONABLE, UNIMAGINABLE GRIEF AND DISMAY.
As we move forward, we acknowledge that all the seasons are in God’s hand and yet we do not need to be spiritual imposters.
Galatians 6 is a go to text for me when I feel like Murphy’s law is winning and I am having what my mother called buzzard’s luck – “can’t kill nothing and nothing will die.”
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
I say to you today, embrace the “In due season” spirit
Take some time to work through the pain and sorrow
Allow yourself to experience human emotions – yes, you are “blessed and highly favored” but right now, in this season you are hurt, you are troubled and traumatized. You may be mad, sad and dare anybody to try to make you glad.
God can handle our anger and our anguish.
We can embrace the challenge and promise of Words “in due season.”
God is our refuge and strength. Show yourself some grace –
We have permission to be real – 100 percent real – to Reflect, and Lament
To Be still,
To breathe again and
To have Hope, secure in knowing that God is in control.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap racial justice and peace in our nation if we do not lose heart.