An Interfaith Call for Prayer, Fasting, and Protest
When the first group of Africans were brought to the shores of Jamestown, Virginia in August of 1619 our nation’s greatest values and pursuits were eclipsed by white America’s intentional, violent, and systematic dehumanization of African people. Such trauma has only persisted and evolved resulting in the continual destruction of the descendants of African slaves for over 400 years. Blacks have thus committed themselves, even from the very beginning, to asserting and fighting for their freedom, their right to exist with dignity, and ultimately be recognized as a human being. Such violence and oppression has stained American soil with the blood of innocent black men, women and children.
Today is no different. The descendants of African slaves continue to cry out that #BlackLivesMatter and demand acknowledgement for their humanity. This statement has reached even greater significance as for the last few months blacks have watched helplessly as vigilante thugs in blue uniforms knelt on the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN; shot Sean Reed on Facebook Live in Indianapolis, IN; burst into Breonna Taylor’s home killing her dead in Louisville, KY; and attacked and killed Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in Glynn County, GA. In addition to vigilante and state sanctioned violence, black people have had to deal with the burden of unemployment, the responsibility of being an essential worker, and the reality of COVID-19’s potent efficacy in taking black lives. Whether due to white violence or this recent coronavirus, blacks find themselves in a perpetual state of grief with no end in sight. In the midst of all these tragedies we need to find time to weep and lament.
Soon-Chan Rah in his book, Prophetic Lament says, Lament is the language of God. “Lament in the Bible is a liturgical response to the reality of suffering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble. The hope of lament is that God would respond to human suffering [in a way] that is wholeheartedly communicated through lament. Unfortunately, lament is often missing from the narrative of the American church.” In spite of the fullness of sin’s destruction on the Earth and on humanity, we have forgotten how to lament before God about our pain and concerns. Our Christianity has divested itself of the hope and glory of weeping with God about the brokenness of our world.
This aversion to lament is contrary to Scripture as more than half of the Psalms in the Bible are laments unto God. In fact, the book of Lamentations is an entire book about the destruction of Israel and how God and the prophet lamented over that destruction. Lamentations 1:8 says:
Jerusalem sinned greatly,
Therefore she has become an unclean thing.
All who honored her despise her
Because they have seen her nakedness;
Even she herself groans and turns away.
In other words, when we see destruction it should cause us to groan, even turn away from looking at it. Scripture reveals that lament is the language of prayer. Lament is the kind of language God expects of our prayers in regards to the destruction caused by racism, xenophobia, and every kind of injustice produced by sin.
As ministers of God, Pastor Victor Bartley, Pastor Michael Kelly, MESSAGE Magazine and Raise Your Voice are asking leaders of all faiths and races to join them in a collective action of lament. The nation has recently lamented over the hundreds of thousands whose lives were lost to coronavirus COVID-19. In this spirit of such a beautiful act of outcry, we invite our nation to lament with us over the hundreds of thousands of black lives lost to white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and police brutality.
We will begin this journey of lament on June 6th being led through 7 days of fasting, prayer, and protest by leaders and clergy of various faith traditions. On the MESSAGE Magazine website you will find daily devotional videos along with instructions on what to pray for, what to fast from, and how to protest. This week of fasting, prayer, and protest will culminate on Saturday, June 13th with a National Day of Lament. We ask that you join us in a virtual reading of the following litany led by Pastor Michael Kelly at the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church and Dr. Jaime Kowlessar of the City Temple SDA Church.
Prayer of Lament
Let us pray together:
God of justice, we are outraged,
as violence in our country begets violence.
We are outraged at the murder of African American life.
We are outraged at police violence sanctioned by the State.
We are outraged by the idea that guns make us safe.
We acknowledge our complicity by not challenging racism, our country’s original sin.
We acknowledge our complicity in not recognizing the power imbalance between State violence and the violence of those who are oppressed.
We lament the loss of life,
We lament the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery and every other whose life was taken prematurely.
We lament families torn apart and communities shattered.
We lament the history of violence in this country against people of color.
We lament that this violence continues today.
We pray God, for Your liberation to come.
We pray God, for Your comfort to fill the hearts of all who mourn.
We pray God, for Your strength as we seek to embody the deeds of love and justice.
God, hear our prayer.
A Call to Action
In addition, we ask that pastors, leaders, and content creators use their own platforms on June 13th to preach, teach, and speak about the power of lament and their moral and spiritual responsibility to cry out against racism and police brutality. If possible, we encourage you to lead your own congregations and spiritual gatherings in a reading of this litany on your respective day of worship.
To conclude our national lament, on June 19th we want to celebrate the historical advancement of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the building of Black Wall Street. In honor of our ancestors we are encouraging everyone to invest in black businesses for 8 days. The New Wall Street initiative led out by Pastor Michael Kelly and the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church is encouraging us, as much as possible, to exclusively buy black. To assist with this action, a list of vendors and stores will be distributed on social media to direct you where to patronize for various goods.
The Dallas Black Clergy has put together an economic campaign and plan for economic revival in our communities. If you are looking for a template, or idea for your context then I would encourage you to visit DallasBlackClergy.com for ideas, tools, and recommendations.
We believe that we must shift the social and spiritual atmosphere with lament through prayer and fasting. But we also believe in shifting the social and political climate with direct action, protest, and economic strategy. It’s time we stop looking for a hero, and become the heroes we seek.
Dr. Jaime Kowlessar, RAISE YOUR VOICE (Dallas, TX)
Pastor Michael B. Kelly, Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church (Riverside, CA)
Pastor Victor K. Bartley, Baldwin’s Chapel SDA Church (High Point, NC); New Life SDA Church (Lexington, NC)