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A Community Service after an Act of Terror

 

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

The following interfaith service provides an opportunity for a community to gather in response to a devastating act of terrorism (such as those that have occurred in places like New York City, Washington DC, and Oklahoma City). Sections of Lament, Remembrance, Thanksgiving and Hope, and Sending are arranged to allow people to communally express their feelings and move them forward in faith and hope.

 

The service order is not completely filled in, thus allowing for community input. However, there is an intentional flow to the arrangement and in the material that is provided here. I would not suggest altering the opening Lament or closing Thanksgiving and Sending sections. Allow the flow to accomplish its goal of assisting people to move forward, while using the Remembrance section creatively.

 

Only one song is suggested below, but there are many opportunities marked for inclusion of other music and songs. Be sure to include songs of a national nature.

 

In preparation for the service, community leaders might ask children to express their feelings in art that can be displayed in the place of worship. Enlarged pictures or projections of the fires and devastation might also be displayed. In a community where there are significant losses of life, pictures of those lost might be displayed. Creative use of video is also encouraged. Use the talent available in your community.

 

Above all, include (rather than exclude) the variety of symbols of faith that are meaningful to people, so that the space is not simply marked as a place of remembrance, but as a place of holiness, a place where hope is found. Encourage clergy to wear any symbols or vestments representative of their faith.

 

Speakers should be carefully selected, insuring they reflect the local faith community. If a speaker is invited from outside the community, ask that person to address local concerns. Representatives of city or state government, or other elected officials, may be valuable additions to the service.

_________________

 

L = Leader      C = Congregation/People

 

Pre-Service Music

(Note: It is suggested that words of welcome be delayed until after the opening Lament section)

 

LAMENT

L. Sisters and brothers, the events of this week in our nation have left many of us speechless. Finding the right words to say even in a gathering such as this is difficult. As Jeremiah of old grieved the destruction of the capital of his nation, let us speak the words of his lament as our own and join our hearts together before the God of our faith.

Please stand

L. Cry aloud to the Lord!

C. Let tears stream down like a torrent.

 

L. Cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches!

C. Lift your hands to God for the lives of your children!

 

L. Fire has come from on high;

C. It went deep into my bones.

 

L. Enemies have stretched out their hands over precious things;

C. I am left stunned and faint all day long.

 

L. The roads to the city mourn.

C. All her gates are desolate.

 

L. The elders sit on the ground in silence;

C. The young have bowed their heads low.

 

L. My soul is bereft of peace.

C. A comforter is far from me.

 

L. But this I call to mind,

C. And therefore I have hope.

 

L. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

C. God's mercies never come to an end.

 

L. They are new every morning.

C. Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.

 

L. The Lord is my portion, says my soul.

C. Therefore I will hope.     (from Lamentations 1-3)

 

Opening Song: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"   (Print words in bulletin)

 

Prayer:  (Optional)

L. God, be with us.

C. And with those in need.

 

L. Let us pray: … (assign the prayer to someone)

C. Amen

Please be seated.

 

Welcome and introductions

 

REMEMBRANCE

This section might include readings from various faith scriptures alternating with stories of personal experience, eyewitness accounts, historic national statements / encouragements, etc. Each community would thereby reflect both the situation and their own part in it. Note that the "Remembrance" here is not just of the event or those involved, but the remembrance of the comfort and hope that God gives. This section may or may not require a single featured speaker, depending upon how the section is arranged. Special music, songs and short prayers may be interspersed.

 

Offerings should be designated for disaster relief. Special music may occur during the receiving of the offering.

 

 

THANKSGIVING AND HOPE

Please stand

L. Sisters and brothers, we have shared our laments, listened to each other's hearts, heard words of remembrance, encouragement, faith and love, and been lifted by stirring songs. Let us now pray together to the God of our faith, in thanksgiving for lives shared and care given, and in hope for our future and our nation.

 

Silence

 

L: God of Creation, God of all, although our hearts are heavy from loss and our emotions confused with anxiety and bitterness, still we gather as one on this day to find comfort, hope and resolve, knowing you to be the God of life and hope. With confidence, we turn to you and offer our praises and thanksgivings.

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: For the lives of those we mourn, for sharing them with us but a little while,

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: For the valiant efforts of the men and women who gave their lives for the sake of others, and for those who continue to assist in so many exhaustive ways,

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: For great buildings that have inspired and for those that will inspire again.

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: For the miraculous and the untold, for the common and the good, for all those things that keep us going in this time.

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: For our great nation and its liberty, undaunted by attack, unshaken in its foundation, undismayed in its resolve,

C: We give thanks to you, O God.

 

L: Build us up again, O God. Heal our hurts, comfort our sorrows, rebuild our cities, guide us in faith.

C: Build us up, O God.

 

L: Give us strength to address the days and weeks ahead. Give us wisdom and patience as we plan for the future. Give us knowledge and insight as we seek to protect ourselves and others. Give us courage and truth as we seek justice and peace.

C: Build us up, O God.

 

L: Fill our hearts with love and peace, O God. Let no hatred or bitterness divide us from the world in which we live. Turn our darkness into the light of day and bless us.

C: Build us up, O God.

 

L: Above all things, make us confident in the hope that is in you, O God. For you are the power and the glory and the wisdom and strength of all who turn to you. Build us up and give us hope. And let the people say,

C: Amen!

 

.SENDING

 

L: We are one people in one nation, united around the foundations of life, liberty and justice for all. We will be healed. We will prosper again. You have heard that word of healing, promise and faith. You have been given hope. Now go forth into the world, lending aid, giving comfort, lifting hearts, sharing your talents and gifts for the benefit of one another, of our nation, and of all the world. And may God go with you and give you peace.

C: Amen! Amen!

 

Closing Song

All are encouraged to follow the leaders in procession into the world during the singing of the final song.