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Ash Wednesday and #DayofRemembrance Prayers

My friend Frank Yamada recently asked me if I would write the prayers of the people and help serve communion at McCormick’s weekly worship service this week. Our noontime service marked both Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the Christian season of Lent – and focused on the upcoming Day of Remembrance, which recalls the formal beginning of the Japanese American incarceration experience on February 19th, 1942 (an event now approaching its seventy fourth anniversary!).

Below are the prayers I shared at the service, written from my perspective as a Japanese American Christian whose family, community history, and theology has been forever and inextricably implicated in these awful events. I’m sharing them in the hope that the church today might remember our country’s concentration camps, the satanic logics that undergirded them, and how kindred forms of this violence continue to affect our bodies and communities today. I invite you to pray these prayers with me during Lent especially, that our communities might together might envision the death of the violent ways of this world and join together the hope for future resurrection.

As Frank mentioned during worship, the Nikkei Christians in America’s concentration camps were known to celebrate the Eucharist with rice crackers and tea, replacing traditional bread and wine, which were sometimes much harder to come by. We celebrated the Lord’s Supper in such a manner at this service, surrounded by the witness of brightly colored paper cranes strung around the room. I also had the opportunity to give ashes, which was such a humbling experience, and one of the most profound and joyful moments I hold onto from my time in seminary thus far. I’ll share some photos from the event at the end of the post.

ashes

“Remember that you are made of God’s fertile earth, and to God’s fertile earth you shall return.”


McCormick Theological Seminary Worship Service

2/10/16

One: For all those laboring in unjust conditions today throughout the world, whose cries and wounds are your own, God, that we might listen.
God of the Bleeding,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For those who do not need ashes to be reminded of mortality, who see death every day, on the streets of Chicago, in Colombia, in Syria and beyond.
God of Ashes,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For those who could not afford to eat Pancakes last night, for all those who struggle to have enough food and who have the hellhound of hunger incessantly on their trail.
God of the Broken Bread,

All: Hear our prayer

One: Para los desaparecidos y displazados – for the disappeared and the displaced. That they might be remembered, and named, and returned.
God of the forgotten,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For all those who have crossed oceans – as conquerors, as immigrants, as captives, and for all their descendants. For all immigrants and refugees to this land and others, among whom Christ is most certainly counted.
God of the sojourner,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For all descended of humanity’s parents, the Issei, the first generation out of the Garden, for us their children who persist in violence against our siblings.
God of peace,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For the survivors of the Japanese American incarceration. For the healing of the land of Manzanar. Tule Lake. Gila River. Heart Mountain. Honouliuli. Granada. Jerome. Minidoka. Rowher. Topaz. For those who did not survive the camps. For all those who did, and for all who have been victimized by silence and trauma in future generations.
God of truth and memory,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For all those who labored and lived behind barbed wire and for every land where fences and borders are raised from your fertile earth to break wills and shatter bodies. For those held in detention centers today, and all those who face incarceration at the hands of the state.
God of the Imprisoned,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For all committed to the earth and all cremated. For returned to the topsoil, the aina, from which you have formed each of us.
God of the Humans and the Land,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For Sadako Sasaki, who folded one thousand paper cranes, colored bright with tears and strength, who died with prayers for life and hope unanswered. For Kenji Kajiyama and all the children poisoned and killed by radiation.
God of the Little Ones,

Hear our prayer

One: For all victims of terrorism – from Golgotha, Santiago, Nanking, Saigon, Hiroshima, Paris, Nagasaki, Chicago, Charleston, and beyond
God of the Disappeared,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For all the children, women and men who were transfigured into ash by hellfire on August 6th and 9th, 1945. For the survivors of nuclear fire and the survivors of torture, whose bodies even after peace is signed are ravaged by war to this day.
God of Justice,

All: Hear our prayer

One: For those who face insults and hatred at human hands, who have bricks and cutting words cast their way. For Muslim and Arab Americans who are suffering in this land. For the protection and blessing of the black body in this and all cities.
God of Suffering,

All: Hear our prayer

One: Finally, O God, we ask for solidarity, the only embodied theology. That we would imitate Christ in moments of pain and weakness. In the words of your martyr Kenji Goto, who was killed in Syria last year, “Close your eyes. Bear it…This is like prayer. Hate is not what humans should do. Judgment lies with God. That is what I learned from my Arab brothers.”
God of Judgment,

All: Hear our prayer

Here are some photographs from the event.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peggy Whitmer #

    I love your prayer and just printed it off. Call me when you have a chance, I’d like you to pray or YL’s ministry. It might be at a crossroads. 217 390-6527 >

    February 14, 2016

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