By the Waters of Charleston We Sat Down and Wept

It's been a week now since nine people were brutally killed in an African American Episcopal Church in Charleston.

One should be careful in such times to say too much.  It is not for me to show up and opine or hold forth or add my outrage or prescriptions to the mix.  There is enough of that already, and I am loathe to play the part of Job's windy friends.

But one should be careful too, to say too little.  In his Letter from Birmingham Jail (which the Trinity faculty is reading together this summer), the Reverend King expressed his concern not only for the "actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." 

So what can we say?  

Here is something:  Leroy Barber, Chair of the Board of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and pastor of Imago Dei Community put together a OneChurchLiturgy.  I've copied it below and would recommend it to the Trinity community.  

It is a lament, a biblical form of hopeful but realistic complaint, a way of speaking to God and to ourselves that is honest yet faithful, hopeful but not naive.  Such prayers have a venerable heritage in the Psalms, in Lamentations, and in many of the prophets.    

Last Sunday, over a thousand churches used this liturgy to respond to this tragedy.  In this video, Reverend Barber speaks powerfully about the way churches have crossed racial and other lines to come together around this way of truthful prayer.

Perhaps you might want to pass this along to your pastors, in case they want to use in corporate worship.  If Trinity were in session now, I would call us together to pray this with the church universal.


We stand before you today, oh Lord
Hearts broken, eyes weeping, heads spinning
Our brothers and sisters have died
They gathered and prayed and then were no more
The prayer soaked walls of the church are spattered with blood
The enemy at the table turned on them in violence
While they were turning to you in prayer 
We stand with our sisters
We stand with our brothers
We stand with their families
We stand to bear their burden in Jesus’ name 
We cry out to you, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, heads spinning
The violence in our streets has come into your house
The hatred in our cities has crept into your sanctuary
The brokenness in our lives has broken into your temple
The dividing wall of hostility has crushed our brothers and sisters
We cry out to you, May your Kingdom come, may it be on earth as it is in heaven 
We cry out for our sisters
We cry out for our brothers
We cry out for their families
We cry out for peace in Jesus’ name
We pray to you today, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, souls stirring
We pray for our enemies, we pray for those who persecute us
We pray to the God of all Comfort to comfort our brothers and sisters in their mourning
We pray that you would bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
We pray that you would give them the oil of joy instead of mourning
We pray that you would give them a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair 
We pray for our sisters
We pray for our brothers
We pray for their families
We pray for their comfort in Jesus’ name 
We declare together, oh Lord
With hearts breaking, eyes weeping and souls stirring
We will continue to stand and cry and weep with our brothers and sisters
We will continue to make a place of peace for even the enemies at our table
We will continue to open our doors and our hearts to those who enter them
We will continue to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven
We will continue to love in Jesus’ name because you taught us that love conquers all 
We declare our love for you, our Sisters
We declare our love for you, our Brothers
We declare our love for you, their families
We declare our love as one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism
We declare they do not grieve alone today 


Thanks Dr. Denton for sharing. I will share this with my family.
Helen D. Mangum said…
Thank you Dr Denton. I pray that we will be unified in this heart, spirit and soul. I will share this with family.
Mr. Myers said…
Anyone desiring a printable version of the lament can use this link A CALL TO WORSHIP FOR THE TRAGEDY IN CHARLESTON.
Richella said…
Yes, we used this at The Gathering Church on Sunday. Thank you for sharing it widely here. It's helpful to have something to say when one can scarcely find the words.

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