I wrote this responsive Advent liturgical prayer for First Congregational United Church of Christ of DC in 2010. During this period, the church was revisiting and reclaiming its commitment to its Multicultural and Multiracial vision. Thus I drew from this statement and incorporated the Advent themes.
December 5th: Peace
All: Holy God, We long for your peace as we hear you calling us toward you.
Window side: As a community we have journeyed across centuries following that call, seeking to know you.
Parlor side: Established in the ashes of a civil war, our ancestors created this church to be a home for all races to do the work of reconciliation.
Window side: Over a century later we affirmed our commitment to a just peace in which all people – all people — can experience shalom within them and around them.
Parlor: We know that work remains.
Window: We know that despite varied and recurrent efforts, racism and cultural biases have not been extinguished from our midst.
Parlor: We know that the world assaults peace, and that tensions tear the tender bonds between diverse communities.
Window: We know that the darkness of the world seeks to snuff out the light of peace, and we know that we do not always do enough to protect and feed Your divine flame.
Parlor: As the community manifest here today, standing on the shoulders of the saints who have come before us, seeking to give constant birth to the formative values we will pass onto our descendents….
All: we reaffirm this church’s commitment to claim an identity that is deeper than race and culture, and to become the beloved community: a reflection and celebration of Your infinite manifestations. We reaffirm this church’s commitment to do the work of reconciliation and of just peace, to do Your work.
Window: To do this, Holy God, we need Your Spirit here with us.
Parlor: To whisper into our minds your wisdom;
Window: To breathe into our hearts your peace,
All: To send us the One who shows us how it will be done, and in whose name we pray. Amen
December 12, 2010: Joy
All: We gather here, God, to drink in Your joy, to heal our souls.
Window side: We celebrate the joy of a community gathered, of the diversity of experience and wisdom present in this sanctuary, and in this city, through which we can better know Your infinite and complex nature.
Parlor side: We celebrate the tradition of inclusion that is the heritage of the United Church of Christ.
Window side: We celebrate that through Christ Jesus, we can build and nurture the beloved community: one body, one family, no insiders, no outsiders, each person’s gifts recognized and affirmed.
Parlor: Forgive us those times when we focus on the distant destination and become cynical, failing to recognize the distance we have already come, the wisdom we have gained.
Window: Forgive us when we fail to remember that it is sometimes darkest just before dawn breaks, but that darkness is fleeting and Your return eternal.
Parlor: Help us to be fed by your manna, the gifts offered along the journey itself, and to draw inspiration and hope from your promise: that through Christ’s example, given to us anew each year, we will all be one.
All: As your light breaks on the horizon, marking your imminent arrival, we feel the warmth of Your promise dawn: a world reconciled. We breathe in that joy, so that we may do the work to make it so.
December 19, 2010: Love
All: Our holy God’s love is moving through the world around us, taking shape, growing…
Window side: in the commitment of a community to build a world rooted in ideals: of justice, peace, inclusiveness…
Parlor side: in the glue that has bound this community together through wilderness periods of darkness, when the commitment to ideals has been strained in application: in 1869, when the church lost membership by insisting on an integrated table.
Window: In 1973 when we invited out gays and lesbians to share our church building.
Parlor: Since 1993, as we have struggled to understand what it is to become a multi-cultural and multi-racial church, and to do the work to make it so.
Window: Since 2007, as we have worked to construct our new church building while deepening and growing our church community.
Parlor: We give thanks for Your love, which arrives fresh and newborn in every moment to remind us that our purpose is not simply to welcome the stranger, but to know ourselves as one with the stranger; not simply to make our community more diverse, but to become one with the whole community of God.
Window: In this new year, we recommit ourselves to proclaiming this message beyond our walls and to supporting others who likewise seek to be the beloved community. We commit to this because we are loved and because we in turn must love.
All: In the busy chaos of this holiday season and in this season of transition for the community, and of rebirth, we pause to witness to Your wonder, and to the shape of love in our world. We breathe. We give thanks.