A prayer service to honor and remember, and pray for change
On Wednesday night, several people from Metro drove to New Rochelle, NY to attend a prayer service at New York Covenant Church with eight other churches from our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church of America. Below, a few of us present our reflections on the service. We share our thoughts with vulnerability because we were changed. Though this is a longer than normal blog post, we invite you to prayerfully read what each of us share so you can join us in on-going prayers for our nation.
I was glad to be at the prayer service because I felt it was a great opportunity to take a first step towards action...putting some action to my outrage. I don't feel like we as a people, the people of the Most High God can afford to be complacent any longer. We must stand together in solidarity, in the unity of the Spirit and the Bond of Peace and bring God into a terrible, tragic, trying situation and not allow injustice (primarily against BlackandBrownPeople) to be "business as usual."
I appreciated the fact that God was truly gloried with the tone and objective and climate of the service. There was no racism perpetuated - no police officer bashing. On the contrary, we prayed for them, laid hands on them and believed God for their protection not their demise.
I was deeply impacted by everyone anointed and appointed to speak, sing, lead and pray. The passion that everyone expressed was truly heart-felt. It was common ground from which people of all races, colors and ethnicities prayed and pledged to stand together to peaceably fight for the righteousness of Christ (that comes against injustices of all kinds) to be realized in our world, nations, communities, neighborhoods, and in our very lives.
I was very happy to be at the prayer service because it seems I spend a lot of time feeling angst about the injustice and very little time taking any action about it, which is made more frustrating as it's difficult to discern what one should even do. So when God gifts a chance to take a little step of faithfulness, it is joy to be able to go, and even more of a joy if it requires some small sacrifice in time, scheduling or convenience.
Most of all, I appreciated the small human connections. An older black man sat behind us - named Ernie I believe. He had recently suffered a stroke and had difficulty speaking, so he opted to let us pray each time we formed prayer groups. Later on in the evening, he was so moved he began to join in despite his speech issues. I sensed the Holy Spirit strongly as he expressed gratitude for the (clearly) difficult life God had given him, and his hope that young lives would blossom even more than his own. As we were leaving, I found out he was a Pastor at one of the representative Churches - he seemed to be a small icon of Christ-like suffering and humility.
Worship and prayer was consistently interiorly difficult for me; and at first I even questioned as to why that was. The answer came quickly from the Spirit - I came here to intercede, to pour out and not take in, and most poignantly, to participate in some small way with the struggle of others. I did not come to receive spiritual sweetnesses, and to have this mindset was a severe fault. It was a good reminder and I pray it sticks with me. I must join with other Christians not only in the joys of Easter Sunday, but also the darkness of Good Friday and the darkness between those two; because this is what Love demands and what He most certainly deserves.
I felt so blessed and humbled to be at this gathering of brothers and sisters of all colors. It made me realize how comfortable I was staying out in my safe suburban town and only "talking" about supporting my black and brown brothers and sisters from afar. The prayer service helped me to see it's not that hard to step out of my comfort zone and join in with my brothers and sisters and let them know that they are not alone in their anger and grief and although I can not walk a mile in their shoes, I can most definitely walk alongside them in prayer and in action. I just hope that the convictions from this night will take root in my heart and in my life and lead me to act.
I am going to be completely honest. The mid-week service at NY Covenant Church this week wasn't what I was expecting at all. For some reason, I went in thinking that we would say a few prayers and maybe sing a few songs, and then we'd be out by 9 PM at the latest. It sounds pretty heartless, but I can explain. In a few days, I will be taking my national board exam in order to become a licensed physical therapist. As you can imagine, my stress levels have been at its peak for several weeks now. But with the tragic events that's been happening in our country (and in the world) this month, I've been wrestling with how to bring all of my thoughts, worries, and concerns to God in prayer. Why should I pray for myself as I'm preparing for this exam when innocent people are getting killed for terrible reasons? It seems so selfish and self-centered.
The prayer service went a lot longer than I had hoped. When I got home at midnight, I cried...but for all the wrong reasons. Allow me to be absolutely vulnerable here. A large part of me regretted going to the prayer service because it inconvenienced my study schedule. Talk about being selfish.
As I was reflecting Thursday evening, God revealed several things to me that I wanted to share. We really are so privileged to live in a place where we have the freedom to worship God wherever we want with whoever we want, and that is something I hope we will never take for granted. As a natural introvert, I can't say I particularly enjoy meeting new people, let alone praying out loud in front of them. But there was something so beautiful about hundreds of people with various skin colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds coming together to hold hands and pray for justice, peace, and unity. I've had almost everyday for the past 20 years to study, but it's not everyday I get to hold hands with a complete stranger and lift them up in prayer. On Wednesday night, I prayed for things that I've never prayed for before. And what amazed me the most was that I witnessed a community praying for the very people that have been hurting them. Today I was reminded that God wants to partner with us in all the things that we do, think, and say. He desires a relationship with us. What I failed to realize all this time is that God wants us to pray for all things, regardless of how big or small we think it may seem.
Contrary to the night before, I'm now going about my day (and, hopefully, the rest of the week) with a perspective of thankfulness. I'm thankful for the freedom to worship with my brothers and sisters. I'm thankful that there are people that would gladly spend 4-5 hours on a Wednesday night praying against the injustices of this world. I'm thankful for a community that is able to see past racial and cultural barriers. Today, I'm thankful for another day of life. And I'm thankful that God has given me the opportunity to even make it this far to be able to sit for this exam.
My heart truly breaks when learning about the events that happened in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas (and now France). And so while my emotions have been all over the place in the past few weeks, I've been reminded that as followers of Christ, we are not called to love the oppressed and hate the oppressor. We are called to love. Period. So, please do pray for unity, for racial reconciliation, for our country, for the world, for the oppressed, and for the oppressors...but pray for yourself too. There's no one else that wants to hear about the good and the bad of your day more than God does.
I appreciated the praise music in between each prayer topic. I also appreciated that we didn't pray just on our own, but holding hands with everyone.
I was glad to be there because I and many of my Metro family got to join other believers from Covenant churches in denouncing the violence, pleading with God to move swiftly in justice and mercy, and to seek Him for comfort, wisdom and courage -- for ourselves, for our churches, for our communities, for those in positions of authority, and for our nation/world
I appreciated hearing from the pastors of multiple urban churches in the NY area; honoring those slain by violence over the years. Indeed -- not just for ceremony, but because they matter to God, their families, and their friends. Being able to participate in passionate praise, a concert of prayer, and to desperately desire justice, mercy, and peace. Definitely sensed God's spirit moving in that sanctuary.
The prayer time helped me become more empathetic toward those who have been directly affected. I am more motivated to pray and do my part. 2 Chronicles 7:14 continues to reverberate in my heart/mind.
I was glad to be there because I was able to see what a piece of heaven will be like. There were people of all races and communities coming together for unity not division. To bring peace here on Earth.
There were a couple of things that I appreciated about the service. Though we came to remember those who were slain due to violent racist police officers, we were asked to pray not only for the victims families but also the remaining police officers and other leaders as well. We were encouraged to respond with righteous anger but also with love. I also appreciated that when we prayed, we prayed holding hands together. I felt connected with the various groups that I prayed with. I had a feeling that we knew that we were all in this together.
The first thing that touched my heart and deepened my desire to help is the that more African American young people have been killed than I knew. It made me realize that I need to educate myself more. Then at the end of the service while I was waiting for my ride, a line of African American women came to hug me and say God blessyou and thank you. It made me realize that in my search of how can I help, sometimes just being present is all you need to do. It was a beautiful time just talking and listening to them.
1. I was glad to be there because we had communal repentance and communal godly sorrow, which ultimately brought us all to communal joy.
2. I appreciated the fact that we were able to pray alongside the black community and beyond. It was great to pray over the fact that we need to be aggressive in LOVE and PEACE. I also appreciated how we did not antagonize or demonize the law enforcement but we prayed alongside them.
3. I was moved when Pastor Peter stood in front of a mostly black congregation and gave a public apology on behalf of the Asian American Community for our lack of love. It has challenged me to voice out more about these issues and to initiate relationships with those we "other" in society.