Praying in the Face of Tragedy

Dear Parish Family,

Suzanne, Daniel, Jacob, and I want to thank you all for your prayers of care and support as we have worked through the shock and grief we experienced at the death of Suzanne’s brother Gary.    It has been a difficult week for all of us.  Your prayers have been a great source of comfort.  We are on the road today and expect to arrive in Madison late tonight.

Prayers have been especially important this week as the horrific images of the bombing in Boston have confronted us once again with the consequences of human fear, hate, and alienation.  We have prayed for those hurt and killed by the blast and for the families and friends of those who were injured or killed.  We have uttered prayers of grief for the loss of innocence, for a diminished sense of security and safety, for a senseless act that has turned a day of celebration into an occasion of national mourning.  We have prayed for those who, because they were there, have been there, or know someone who was there, carry invisible scars and wounds that may take years to recognize, address, and treat.  And because we follow a crucified Lord, the God who died at our hands to show us that nothing we can do can ever separate us form the love of God, we have even dared to offer prayers for the perpetrators of this horrific act.

On Monday night, the day of my brother in law’s funeral, as I sat in front of the television in my mother in law’s living room I posted the Prayer for the Human Family from page 851 of the BCP:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


I hope that we will all find the grace and courage to offer this prayer in the face of tremendous hurt, anger and frustration.  It is in moments such as this that this prayer is most needed.

Having then stood with Christ, having prayed for the whole human family, we are able to offer our prayers of thanksgiving.  We offer thanks to God for moving in this world though the hearts and hands and feet of the people who, having felt the concussion generated by those blasts, turned towards that horror and ran to the aid of those who had fallen.  We offer prayers of gratitude that God has placed in our hearts a care for one another that enables us to rise above fear for ourselves and to join with God in the work of healing and reconciliation.  We give thanks for the witness born by the first responders that the Light has come into the world and the darkness has not overcome it.

Now we pray for strength and courage; for the ability to see and hear those in our midst who are hurting, afraid, or discouraged and to be present with them as they tell their stories.

We pray for the  strength and courage to stand our ground, to refuse to be drawn into the darkness of fear, retribution, violence and revenge; to take our place with the crucified Christ knowing that it is only through bearing the cross that we experience resurrection.

We pray for the strength and courage to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves as we strive for justice and peace among all people respecting the dignity of every human being.

We pray because we know that we can only fulfill these promises and vows with God’s help.

Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller, has written a reflection on the tragedy in Boston. You can find it here.

The rev. Dr. Jonathan Grieser, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Madison has published a collection of prayers on his blog.  You can find it here.

The Rev Jonathan Melton, Chaplain for the Saint Francis House Episcopal Student Ministry at UW-Madison has written a reflection on his blog.  You can find it here.  

And finally, our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is in Okinawa, Japan for the Second Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference, called for prayer following the explosions, and offered the following prayer:

Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We pray that the suffering and terrorized be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen one. May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us. May our hearts be pierced with compassion for those who suffer, and for those who have inflicted this violence, for your love is the only healing balm we know. May the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears. All this we pray in the name of the one who walked the road to Calvary. Amen.


Sent from my iPad

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