We Know That Prayers Alone Are Not Enough

Rev. Jane Field
June 13, 2016
The members of the Maine Council of Churches open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope as we respond to the mass shooting of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Orlando. We pray for the families and friends who love them and are now devastated by trauma and grief, and we pray for the first responders who rushed into harm’s way to protect and save lives. Yet even as we pray, we know that our prayers alone are not enough. Our prayers should lead us to redemptive action, doing all we can to reduce the likelihood of what Pope Francis called such senseless hatred ever happening again.

Together with Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, we call on all people of good will, people of all faiths and no faith, to renew our determination to end homophobia, to end the demonization of those of other faiths, to recognize that our speech has consequences, and to create a society where access to lethal weapons has some rational control. To do otherwise is to wait helplessly for the next atrocity.

We share Episcopal Bishop Rob O’Neill’s sense of call that now is not a time for us as inheritors of the gospel of peace to shrink back or remain silent. Instead it is the time for all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart in opposition to the hatred and violence that so haunts this world (tragically, much of it rationalized, justified, and glorified in the name of God).

We recognize that what happened in Orlando early Sunday morning has nothing to do with God, no matter what a gunman or group might claim. When such hatred and violence is couched in the language of faith, it is a twisted perversion of the human capacity for spiritual connection to God that we call religion. What happened in Orlando is what fanatical hate-mongering and efforts to instill fear inspire, no matter the façade of religion or patriotism used to cloak it. And let us make no mistake, every religion has the potential to be twisted into spawning extremism, intolerance, hatred and violence.

But every religion also has the potential to bring justice, compassion, peace and love. We at the Maine Council of Churches believe it is just such religious practice that reflects God’s will for all creation, and resonates with the compelling, prophetic message of our sacred scriptures.

Hundreds gather at Portland’s City Hall for a candlelight vigil on June 13th. Photo credit: Ben Shambaugh (via Facebook)

One man whose brother was inside the Pulse nightclub and is still missing, went on Facebook to tell the world that he knows the shooter did not represent any religion. “I want to let people know that not everyone’s the same. Today I met real Islam and all they do is love.” He was speaking of Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who had rushed to Orlando on Sunday morning after learning of the shooting. He spent Sunday comforting family members of the victims and speaking out to condemn the violence. That is the kind of redemptive action to which all of our prayers should lead as we join with one another to build a truly inclusive community and live out our calling to be repairers of the breach.

In that spirit, let us pray prayers that lead us into action, like the following prayer written hours after the shooting by Rev. Laurie Ann Kraus, Associate Mission Director for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance:

God of the rainbow, once long ago, you stretched your light across the heavens to renew your covenant of peace with your people. Help us in these days to believe that promise, to participate in it, and to treasure the life which it treasures. In the wake of an event that should be impossible to contemplate, but which has become all too common in our experience:
open our eyes, break our hearts,
and turn our hands to the movements of your Spirit,
that our anger and sorrow may unite in service to build a reign of peace,
where the lion and the lamb may dwell together,
and terror no longer holds sway over our common life.