Below is the outline of a worship service that was held by the six students in my seminary’s Worship and the Arts: #BlackLivesMatter course this winter. My friend Lauren Robinson and I structured the flow of the liturgy and created the public call and response critique of “All lives matter,” adapted with permission from a blog post by Peter Gathje.
I wrote the prayers below, inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, and they are a part of an ongoing project (a booklet of uncommon prayer) I am working on for the sharing and curating of Collects (a specific kind of traditional prayer used in the Anglican and other traditions) specifically for (and from a lens of) the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In these skeletal words it is impossible to capture the fullness of the service: thinking here of the cadence of the testimonies, the power in public renunciation and confession, the musical depth, and the impressing of our fingerprints on the portrait of the lynching tree. The service was filmed in its entirety, and I will post a link on this page when it becomes available. Hopefully that will help fill in some gaps for those interested.
I’m very happy to hear feedback on this service: please feel free to use, workshop, and improve it in creating your own spaces to worship God as we journey together to praise our Savior, celebrate blackness, and address the ongoing bane of white supremacy in this land.
Wednesday, Dec 2nd, 2015
Call to Worship
Liturgical critique of “All Lives Matter!”
All: Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “Slave lives matter. God says, ‘Let my people go!’”
Leader: Pharaoh said:
White People: “ALL lives matter. Get back to work.”
All: The prophets went to the rulers of Israel and said: “Poor lives, widowed lives, orphan lives matter!”
Leader: The rulers of Israel said:
White People: “ALL lives matter. Shut up.”
All: Jesus walked about Roman empire and said: “Lepers’ lives matter. Blind peoples’ lives matter. The lives of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the incarcerated matter.”
Leader: The Roman empire and their collaborators said:
White People: “ALL lives matter. Enjoy your crucifixion.”
All: The children of God held in bondage said: We are in chains. We live under the lash. Our mothers and sisters are being raped.
Leader: The Christian slave-owners responded:
White People: The Bible says: “submit to your masters! Don’t be a trouble maker!”
All: The children of God held in bondage said: We cannot vote, we cannot make a living. Our houses are being stolen from us. We are burned and hung on trees and lamp-poles.
Leader: The nice white people said:
White People: They were probably criminals anyway. We work hard for what we have!
All: The children of God held in bondage said: Our churches are burning. The police are killing our children. We are not safe in Wednesday night Bible studies.
Leader: The lawmakers and churches, said:
White People: Stop being thugs. What about black on black violence? Jesus says: “Turn the other cheek! Pray for those who persecute you! Forgive your enemies!” Donald Trump’s Life Matters!
Leader: God, they are killing our children. What else, God, can we say?
Leader: Against the killings of your children and all strange fruit, Merciful God, we ask that you make prosperous the good fruits of the Holy Spirit in us. Let us hear the cries of those who are mourning. Let our own cries be heard. Grant us boldness and assurance as your children, and end the reign of evil in this land.
Passing of the Peace
Song: To God Be the Glory
Scripture (Numbers 21:7-9)
Some of the people went to Moses and admitted, “It was wrong of us to insult you and the Lord. Now please ask him to make these snakes go away.”Moses prayed, and the Lord answered, “Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won’t die.” Moses obeyed the Lord. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes
Fingerprints on the Lynching Tree
Collect for an End to Violence at the Hands of the State
Leader: O God, Protector and Servant of All, Grant that we through the strength of your divine hand might protect and serve one another – make all hatreds cease, unmask all systems of corruption and power, drive out all fears and prejudices in our day. We know that you are as near as our breath and as close to us as the recesses of our hearts and minds. May your presence be a balm to those who are suffering and a dark flame to those who are causing injury. Rupture, O Holy Spirit, O Giver of Truth, the status quo of perennial violence that infects our land, and teach us through your divine Word to reject the lies of any false peace in favor of the presence of your dangerous justice.
Collect Against False (White) Pacifism (Presented through word and dance)
God, we know that the enemy is here to steal and kill and destroy. May God’s Spirit fill and free us, ending false peace and giving us the strength to enter into the depths of our world in all its mangled truths. Empower us to reject any false peace that is maintained through social violence. Forgive us for believing the lie that black people are inherently violent, that white people are inherently safe. Teach us to follow you down any path, empower us to greater freedom and peace in our day by as many means as necessary.
Scripture (Proverbs 6:16-19)
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Closing Scripture (Romans 12:2)
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”