In part 1 of this article, I wrote about my decision to facilitate an Interfaith prayer call on Sunday, July 10th after the horrific killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas Police officers: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. The onslaught of this news overloaded my senses and triggered my memory of being racially profiled, followed and pulled over on my way to the grocery store by two young white police officers late one night in the Spring of 2015. While I was not physically harmed or verbally insulted, the action was unwarranted as I did not commit any traffic violation.
Remembering my feelings of anger and isolation after I was pulled over, I decided to do something that I could have benefited from at that time. I chose to create a sacred prayer space for people to be together in community. Prayer gives us the opportunity to be vulnerable, voice our suffering and call out to the Divine in times of sorrow. Prayer can bring clarity in times of confusion. Prayer also helps us express a vision we want to hold for ourselves and others.
With two days’ notice, seven Interfaith ministers agreed to join me and share prayers from their various religious traditions. I believe the reason they said yes so quickly is because many of them understand racism to be a psycho-spiritual illness. Part of the reason it thrives is because of our fear to name its cause, symptoms and ongoing effects. We cannot heal what we refuse to acknowledge – even it if simply means starting where we are by admitting our own racial bias and prejudices.
I personally believe Interfaith (&/or Interspiritual) ministers, counselors, and educators have a responsibility to engage in the process of working to dismantle racism as a demonstration of our belief in oneness. The prayers and poems below were shared by Interfaith ministers and students during and after our call on July 10th. We offer them in an effort to facilitate healing and unite us in love so that we have the courage to do the necessary work that lies ahead.
Rev. Melissa Stewart – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
Allowables by Nikki Giovanni
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn’t
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don’t think
To kill something
Because I am
Rev. Dr. Sally N. MacNichol – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
Words from Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker
In the midst of a world marked by tragedy and beauty, there must be those who bear witness against unnecessary destruction, and who, with faith, stand and lead in freedom, with grace and power.
There must be those who speak honestly and do not avoid seeing what must be seen of sorrow and outrage, or tenderness, and wonder.
There must be those whose grief troubles the water while their voices sing and speak refreshed worlds.
There must be those whose exuberance rises with lovely energy that articulates earth’s joys.
There must be those who are restless for respectful and loving companionship among human beings, whose presence invites people to be themselves without fear.
There must be those who gather with the congregation of remembrance for compassion, draw water from old wells, and walk the simple path of love for neighbor.
And there must be communities of people who seek to do justice, love, kindness, and walk humbly with God, who call on the strength of soul-force to heal, transform, and bless life.
There must be religious witness.
Rev. Elizabeth Teal – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
Rhythm of Prayer
in the morning
a call of prayer came.
the crows cawed,
while the osprey sang in the choir –
Ask and it shall be given –
what shall we ask for?
and suddenly the woodpecker laughed and began to bang out the Truth.
Knock and the door shall be opened!
Enter into the uncertain moment –
help change the world with Love.
Rev. Lisa Fournier Montoya – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
As I now go out into the world, may I be a channel of love.
May I think with love;
May I see with love;
May I listen with love;
May I speak with love;
May I act with love;
May I be the very presence of love in this world.
Blessings to all.
Rev. Leslie Rembault – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
I commit to being open to hearing and holding all, the pains of the slain and their families, the pains of the slayers and their families, the pains of all who have seen this, heard this, felt this violence, who know violence in our own words, silences, actions and inactions.
Rev. Dr. Diane Berke – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
Words from Hope in the Dark (2016 edition) by Rebecca Solnit
Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, early on described the movement’s mission as to “Provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams.” It’s a statement that acknowledges that grief and hope can coexist…
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is … the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same …
Rev. Eileen Fisher – One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
November 22 by Parker Palmer
On this day long years ago, our promising
young President was killed. He was far too young
to die and I too young to watch my world unravel
as it did. I grieved my loss, our loss, then started
to reweave—a work, a life, a world—not knowing
then what I know now: the world unravels always,
and it must be rewoven time and time again.
You must keep collecting threads—threads of meaning,
threads of hope, threads of purpose, energy and will—
along with all the knowledge, skill that every weaver needs.
You must keep on weaving—stopping sometimes only
to repair your broken loom—weave a cloak of warmth
and light against the dark and cold, a cloak in which
to wrap whoever comes to you in need—the world
with all its suffering, those near at hand, yourself.
And, if you are lucky, you will find along the way
the thread with which you can reweave your own
tattered life, the thread that more than any other
laces us with warmth and light, making both the
weaver and the weaving true—the red thread
they call Love, the thread you hold, then
hand along, saying to another, “You.”
May the divine spark of light and goodness in every being illumine our path forward out of this tragedy. May our light spread and bring healing and wholeness to all those who suffer because of gun violence. And together may we journey as one nation towards a peaceful land where tragedies are memories, and love and compassion rain down like a warm April shower.