During the prayers, when I say: “God of Diversity” please respond with “fill us with compassion and courage.”
Good morning. I have been reading a book called, Don’t Label Me, by Irshad Manji. It’s presented as a series of conversations between Irshad and her dog Lily. It sounds silly but I learned so much from their exchange, and even though I’m not really a dog person, I even came to be fond of Lily. So, I rely on some of Irshad Manji’s (and Lily’s) words and wisdom in these prayers.
Let us pray.
God of our lives, we are present in your loving grace as we gather today, in this community of faith and love. We come with gratitude for the gentle summer we are enjoying, days of sunshine and of rain, warm days and cool nights, and fresh and fragrant air. We come with gratitude for our vibrant community, full of new ideas and committed people and talents beyond description.
We also come with worry about the dividedness of our world. We hear and speak words of inclusion and honouring diversity, and then we see ourselves and others yield to the temptation to make quick judgments about what we perceive to be threats. It is an old reflex – that served us well when we were under attack by hungry carnivores.
Over generations, even as we escaped the clutches of the carnivores, we have continued to respond to fear by quickly identifying and judging the source of it. Often we use a label to define it so we know how to respond, how to defend ourselves and what we believe. Muslim. Old white man. Privileged white woman. Racist. Radical. Transphobe. Homo. Entitled Millennial. We have at hand an endless and ever-growing list of labels. In applying labels we forget to be curious. We ignore the backstory, the context of an individual, their human stories that we can learn from. Labels relieve our distress or uncertainty but they also reinforce divisions, creating anger and hatred.
Loving Spirit, we know this is not the vision you hold for our common good on this planet. As we work for a more loving and truly inclusive world, we pray for your guidance. God of Diversity… “fill us with compassion and courage.”
In this church, we are part of a community that seeks and welcomes true diversity, embodied in the individuals we are and in others we would invite to be with us. We seek to do this without labels, but with curiosity and appreciation. Loving one, we ask your blessing on our efforts. In the Pacific Mountain Regional Council Prayer Cycle, we pray for the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge in Trail, Como Lake United Church in Coquitlam, Comox United Church, Cordova Bay United Church in Victoria, and Cranbrook United Church. We pray for their work in building true understanding and bridging divisions. In the World Council of Churches Prayer Cycle, we pray for Liberia and Sierra Leone. May these countries find their way to honour and provide for all their citizens, regardless of faith or ethnic origin. We remember and pray for peacemakers and peacekeepers and all those who serve throughout the world with many organizations. And we pray for their loved ones who await their safe return. We pray for LGBTQ+ people who are persecuted in many countries. We think of our friends, our brothers and sisters, at Nyanyadzi Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. The effects of colonialism are still so evident in that country, and we pray for Zimbabwe’s efforts to find a just path forward. We also pray for our Bienestar partners involved in the Nelson United Church outreach project in Guatemala.
And as is our custom, we pray for those on our prayer list, and for the people who care for them. And we pray for those in our hearts, their names spoken aloud or silently… …God of Diversity… “fill us with compassion and courage.”
We are blessed to live in a beautiful place. Yet we know there are divisions – within ourselves, our families, our community. Compassionate One, help us to reach out to the “other” with genuine and gentle curiosity. To breathe through our fear to find compassion, gratitude and understanding.
Courageous One, help us to reach deep inside ourselves to find moral courage – the strength to do the right thing despite our fears. And help us to build and defend spaces where we can speak with each other and ask difficult questions, without fear of being judged, labelled and demeaned, or harmed. In doing these things, may we come close to grace, the highest form of courage and compassion. May we work and walk with Jesus on this journey, determined and in love. God of Diversity… “fill us with compassion and courage.”
And together we say… “AMEN!”