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Liturgy and prayers following violence

Liturgy and prayers following violence

Anna Howell, of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, was asked by the Bishop of Nevada to write an order of service for a vigil following the attacks in Las Vegas this week. That service can be found on her blog, Sulfur-Free Jesus, linked here. (See our Cafe story on Bishops Against Gun Violence, posted on October 2, which included an acknowledgement of her work.)


This order is suitable for use by a community of faith in the aftermath of a mass shooting or similar incident, whether locally or elsewhere in the nation or the world. 

If there is no Mass to be celebrated, this service may be led by a layperson, substituting “us” and “our” for “you” and “your” in the Benediction.

It is appropriate, if possible, for tea lights or other small candles, preferably equal in number to the number of persons who have been killed, to be used. Candles should be lit prior to the service, and remain burning in a conspicuous part of the worship space during the service. They may be extinguished afterwards by an acolyte or other appointed person. 

And from the liturgy:

Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this [day/night] in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

The lessons include Isaiah 41:9-10, 13, Psalm 130, II Corinthians 1:3-4 and Matthew 5:1-9, the Beatitudes.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat posted this prayer on her blog, Velveteen Rabbi:

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.


How is your diocese or parish responding in prayer and liturgy to the violence of this week? Please share with us in comments.

Additions, 12:32 p.m.

Suggested by Jeffrey Austin Ross, responding to a post on the Episcopal Church General Convention Facebook page, the Litany of St. Francis:

V: We come to you with heavy hearts

R: Lord, Make us instruments of your peace.

V: We come to you from a world of division.

R: Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

V: We come to you having hurt each other.

R: Where there is injury, pardon.

V: We come to you looking for answers.

R: Where there is doubt, faith.

V: We come to you broken.

R: Where there is despair, hope.

V: We come to you not seeing the road ahead.

R: Where there is darkness, light.

V: We come to you with heavy hearts.

R: Where there is sadness, joy.

All: O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning, that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. AMEN.



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Leslie Scoopmire

At Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, one prayer used was this:
Litany of Supplication
O Lord, we are undone once again. We are frightened, angry, unsure, fragile.
Hear us, O Lord.

From all that threatens what is precious: our families, our communities, our friends, our values, our safety, our right to live, justice for every life,
Save us, O Lord.

From grief that overwhelms us at the loss of those dear, grief at the death of our children and fellow citizens, for grief for an innocence we cannot recover,
Save us, O Lord.

From enemies we do not understand and who wish to harm us and others,
Save us, O Lord.

From cynicism and despair, from anger and lust for retribution, from self-righteousness and easy conscience,
Save us, O Lord.

From loss of faith, where we no longer trust in your love, giving ourselves over to rages of our heart and our world,
Save us, O Lord.

Come to us, abide with us. We cannot live save but with you. Come to us, O God and Creator.

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