It seems like nearly every week there's another story of a person whose life has ended in violence because of the systemic anti-Black racism that has authorized and empowered the targeting, assault and killing of black and brown bodies in this country.
Many of us are unsure how we can stand against these horrors. How we can cry out for justice. How we can say “No more.”
Of course, we must start with love. Real love. “Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” That’s the call we hear from our scriptures (1 John 3:18, The Message). And as Dr. Cornell West has said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
We can practice real love in many different ways. Speaking out against racial injustice on social media, in our schools and offices and churches. We can also participate by getting involved with groups dedicated to ending racial injustice like the #BlackLivesMatter movement…they have many local chapters. As does the group, Showing Up for Racial Justice.
We can also make space and time for lament.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey, minister, community organizer, a Founder of the Faith Matters Network has said, “The type of healing we need can only be borne out of lament — a lament that holds space in the deepest pits of our beings for the piercing sorrow and rage being expressed by black communities, cultivates empathy, and puts restorative justice at the center of our collective action.”
We invite you to make lament a weekly practice. Stop and take a few moments for a simple ritual of lament and prayer each week in your own home, by yourself, or with family members or a friend, or perhaps with a small group, or in your church.
Take a few moments to light a candle and name the names of people who’ve been killed. And name the names of black and brown sisters and brothers who live in fear. Take time to weep and mourn and cry out to God in pain, grief and confusion, and yes, also, for those whose skin is white, to confess complicity in a system of injustice.
We have created a prayer of lament for you to use if you wish, which you can also download here. Or come up with your own words.
You might want to kneel. You might want to create your own wailing wall or a jar of tears, writing names on strips of cloth or paper. We've also put together a Pinterest page with some ideas about ways to embody and ritualize our prayers. You can find that here.
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church in New York has said, “Love looks like this: Prophetic grief. Tears falling heavy. And activism that ends racism.”
Join us in letting the tears fall, in confession, in action, in real love.
A Prayer of Lament
Things Are Broken Here
O God, things are so broken here.
So many black and brown bodies have been targeted, abused, choked, shot and killed.
Tonight we cry out in grief for ________________________(fill in names)
And tonight we mourn for the families and friends of these victims.
And tonight we must ask, How long O Lord, how long?
Lord, hear our prayer.
Tonight we also confess that we are a part of an unjust system that is tearing us all to pieces.
And sometimes we simply don’t know what to do.
And sometimes we’re too comfortable to do anything.
And sometimes we’re too scared.
Forgive us. Change us. Show us the way to love.
Hear these words of assurance:
God hears our cries and says: “How can I forget you? See I have written your names on the palms of my hands. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or fail to pity the child of her womb? Even these may forget, but I won’t forget you.”
And when we confess our sins, Jesus shouts, “God forgive them,” even from the cross, and stands beside us with the love that will not let us go.
Remain in that love. Be God’s love in the world.
Sing Together: We are on this earth to love.