Service features a long list of heartfelt laments

And still there’s hope this Advent season, as a service by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship proves

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Service of Lament and Hope offered Sunday by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship included a highlight organizers may not have envisioned — poignant online participation by the nearly 30 people gathered to mark the loneliness, heartache and, yes, the hope that people have experienced during a year marked by pandemic, racial injustice, economic devastation and isolation.

Asked to name the laments they’re carrying during this season of Advent, worshipers responded, including:

  • “Lamenting hatred and hardened hearts”
  • “The weariness of caregiving, especially during this time of isolation.”
  • “For all who are incarcerated — in jails, prisons and detention centers”
  • “The untimely deaths of so many — particularly those who died alone”
  • “The exhaustion this year has brought on so many: financial, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual”
  • “For the pain and suffering of those in the little town of Bethlehem, Palestine, tonight, the days before and coming”
  • “Grieving a year without seeing family”
  • “Lamenting the students who have been lost in the shuttle of remote school”
  • “Essential workers, from the fields to the medical community, many undocumented, who have taken such great risks for all of us”
  • “Prayers for Iran, Syria, Palestine, South Sudan, Yemen and all of the other countries that are being torn apart by the pandemic”
  • “Lamenting that our government continues to not care about us”
  • “Prayers for the Indigenous people of this continent who are so devastated by this pandemic”
  • “For the people of Central America, devastated by hurricanes.”

the Rev. Ashley Drake Mertz

“It’s been a challenging season as we’ve faced the grief of the pandemic,” said the Rev. Ashley Drake Mertz, pastor of Grace First Presbyterian Church in Weatherford, Texas. “As we light a candle together, we invite Christ, we invite hope, to join us as we worship God.”

“Celebrations can seem hollow if we are experiencing grief, depression and pain,” said the Rev. Timothy Wotring, a member of PPF’s Executive Committee, who led music throughout the service. Despite the pain of coronavirus death and police violence, “we ask you to speak to us, O Lord, words of comfort, healing and restoration.”

the Rev. Timothy Wotring

“Thanks for a community that stretches across time and place, and technology that allows us to be brought together,” Drake Mertz said during a prayer. “There have been moments, days and weeks that left us wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Give us hands and feet to embody Christ to all we encounter.”

These Scripture passages were read: Isaiah 64:1-9 (“Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.”), Psalm 69:1-3, 7-18 (“I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.”) and Matthew 5:1-14 (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”).

the Rev. Ashley Bair

“We know you have made the world in a way that people find their own path to peace, within themselves and with their neighbors,” the Rev. Ashley Bair prayed. “With everything we are and everything we carry, we remain blessed.” Bair offered up these beatitude-style pairings: “Blessed are you who refuse to turn away, or who need to turn away … Blessed are we when we stay tender and when we stay fierce.”

“This is your world, and we will do what we can to protect it,” Bair told the Almighty. “This is your day and we will — even for a moment — rejoice in it.”

Worshipers also recited PPF’s The Peacemaker’s Creed, written by PPF’s National Committee five years ago during Holy Week. The creed includes these words:

We will not be enemies with anyone

not those who believe they are our enemies

not those whom we have been taught to hate

not even those whose actions make us afraid. …

We confront injustice

seeking to understand how our actions provoke conflict

examining circumstances through the lens of Scripture

using nonviolent strategies to direct action. …

We commit to bold witness to our church and to the world

reflecting, praying and acting for peace

honoring those who have devoted their lives to the cause of peace and justice

proclaiming that we are — all of us — God’s beloved children.

For we belong to God

and give our lives to the hope and possibilities of a world transformed.

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