Prayer for Peace
Rev. Douglas Taylor (Unitarian Universalist)
For the “Interfaith Vigil for Peace” held at the Jewish Community Center
March 9, 2022
(Barely two weeks into the Russian war on Ukraine)
Two days ago, renown cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a concert at Kennedy Center which he began with the Ukrainian National Anthem. Earlier that same day, Yo-Yo Ma was reportedly seen by several people playing his cello alone outside the Russian Embassy. A lone cellist, playing in protest to the violence.
It is reminiscent of the protest by Vedran Smailovic 30 years ago during the 1992 Bosnian war. Smailovic was the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera at the time and witnessed a bombing that killed 22 people. So, the next afternoon, dressed in his formal concert attire, Smailovic set up in the place where the shell had burst and he played Albinoni Adagio in G Minor. He returned day after day to the same place to play the same piece. He played for 22 afternoons while the war ravaged the city around him. He played one day of music for each person killed in the explosion.
Blessings upon cellist Yo-Yo Ma this week for reminding us of this act of courage and defiance, of protest and beauty, this prayerful call for peace and dignity in the midst of violence and destruction.
A reporter had asked Smailovic 30 years ago, what he was doing, what he hoped to accomplish, if he might not be a little crazy – risking his life to play his cello in the middle of the street in the middle of a war day after day. Smailovic responded:
“You ask me if I am crazy for playing the cello. Why do you not ask if they are not crazy for shelling Sarajevo?”
Let us be grateful for the reminders we find in these days. Reminders that we need not be drawn into responding to violence with more violence. Reminders of courage and human dignity, reminders that offering beauty in the midst of violence can be an act of prayer and of protest. We are still here. We still care about our world. The human spirit is stronger than this war, and peace will prevail on earth.
O Spirit of life, God of us all
We gather for healing and for peace this day
We see conflict in the world and indeed even in our own hearts
We long to build a peaceful world and to be a peaceful people
We pray: may we be restored and made whole
We pray for peace in the world,
for peace among all nations and people
For peace in our neighborhoods
and in our families and for peace in our hearts
But not only for peace, O God, we pray also
For hope and human dignity, for grace and strength to lift us up
With humble voices we lift our hearts seeking a balm
When we are discouraged help us know we strive not in vain
Fill us, O Spirit with faith and with courage
And with the audacity to believe we can make a difference
And that peace will one prevail on earth.
In the name of all that is holy
May it be so
Eternal Spirit, from whom all things come and to whom all things return.
We gather in gratitude this day. We gather as children of the earth, joined together in a bond of respect and connection. We lift our hearts and our voices in both grief and gratitude.
We share our grief for the ways our mother earth has been dishonored and destroyed, for the ways the connection has been severed, for the ways we are alienated from our home. We pray for healing and for a turning and for strength to again flow between the land and the people.
We share of gratitude for the ways we discover and rediscover our connection and wholeness each day. We share our gratitude for our place in the circle, for the sharing and for the light. We share our gratitude for all the earth offers us, for the gifts of sun and soil, of life and the nourishing spirit.
As we wind our way into our culture’s celebration of Thanksgiving, O spirit, may we learn to lean in to our gratitude for the land and the plentiful nourishment it can provide.
May be uncover and honorable harvest this season. May we help keep the balance of living and give thanks for all we have been given.
In the name of all that is holy,
May it be so.
June 13, 2021
“Here is What We Have Learned”
by Rev. Douglas Taylor
So much has changed in our lives over this year. We have been caught up in the global storm known as COVID-19. So much of what we took for granted or thought of as normal and regular, so much has been impossible, unsafe, even deadly.
Today, as a congregation, we honor passages in our lives: births, deaths, joining, crossing, and becoming. We may consider the ways the pandemic can also be seen as a passage. We are travelling this path from the way things were through into the way things may yet become. Every passage offers lessons to those involved.
While we have turned ourselves inside out to survive as best we could in this pandemic, we have learned some things about ourselves, about each other, about our world. We have learned some things about our values and our what matters to us, about what does and does not matter to others.
Here are some of the things we’ve learned over this this past year:
We are both fragile and resilient.
We have learned it can hard to keep moving when we are disoriented. It helps to slow down; it has been necessary to slow down.
We’ve learned it becomes easier for lies to spread when we are anxious and uncertain.
We’ve learned that 3.8 million is a large number – too large for most people to really take in. 3.8 million: that’s how many people have died from this pandemic since the beginning of 2020. 600,000 is also a big number. That’s the deaths just in the United States just from this one illness.
This has been hard. Harder that we imagined it would be.
But here is what else we’ve learned: while fear is still present, we are learning to rebuild our resilience.
We have learned that we can do online church; that we can protest injustice effectively even during a pandemic; that a lot of work can happen from home or anywhere – not all of it, but a lot more than we used to imagine; that medical innovation is possible with the right motivation and a reduction in capitalism’s restrictions.
We’ve learned that being with others helps. It is hard to be so vulnerable and powerless. Loneliness can be harmful.
Our big lesion has been that we need connection, that we are all more connected than we usually recognize. That need for connection has been what transmits the illness and also what has been a healing balm. Our connections matter. Our strength comes from being in community.
Our world is changing, and all shall be well. We will get through this, and all shall be well. We will get through this the way we have gotten through other difficulties in the past – together, and all manner of thing shall be well.
From whom all things come and to whom all things return
We gather this hour to speak together of flowers and community,
of hope and bright blessings
We all have sorrows and broken places in our lives.
We do not always offer our best selves to the world.
Yet here we are: leaning into a simple ceremony of flowers and beauty together.
Despite the turmoil in the world and in our hearts,
we have come together in this moment to give praise to beauty and nature and life;
to communion for a time with the flowers
Help us remember this moment, O Spirit.
Later as we wind our ways through the hours and days to come,
Help us remember how we choose to set aside this small time to be together;
To be in this moment of grace and beauty with our flowers,
with our community, with thee, O Spirit
May this hour bring a greater abundance of life-giving truth and beauty
to those of us here gathered, and indeed to the whole world.
May this moment with these flowers and these people be
an ongoing blessing in our days.
In the name of all that is holy,
May it be so.
Rev Douglas Taylor
From Whom all things come and to whom all things return.
Hear this prayer, for our faith community, for our nation and our world, for me and the ones I love, for all those who are loved. Hear us in this time of change and possibility and uncertainty.
We gather this morning across our phone lines and computer screens. We gather as a community scattered across the region, though connected across the weeks and months and in and out of this past year in the best ways we could keep connected during this pandemic. We gather digitally, yearning for the community of grace and support we have found in years past and need so keenly in these days.
This pandemic has put great limitations upon us, O Spirit. This pandemic has asked sacrifices of us, losses and hardship, isolation and care. We have borne the burden on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of others, of the vulnerable, of strangers in need.
We have learned, O Spirit, just how very deeply the connection is among us while we have been isolated and disconnected. With care, we have worn our masks, stayed away from crowds, stopped visiting friends and family. With care we have refrained from risks knowing that the risk I choose to take may impact my neighbor, my spouse, my friend, my children, in ways I cannot control. We have borne the burden, O Spirit.
And now, the science tells us the trouble is beginning to ease. We begin to breathe again; we begin to hope. We begin to make plans.
But Spirit we know this is a newly dangerous time. This sickness is not done, the burden is not lifted. It has eased, but the danger is still hidden and waiting. We know there are steps we can still take to both come back together and protect the vulnerable among us. O Spirit, help us to remember both the grace of coming back together and the continuing need to care for and protect the vulnerable among us.
As we step into this new time of in between, when our worlds begin to open back up but the risk is still present, help us to keep our values of inclusion and connection and truth at the front of our decisions and choices.
May our community thrive. May the people in our lives be held in care. May our world turn still toward compassion and care for all those in need. May we have what we need. May we remember our power. May we serve life. And may we keep compassion in our hearts as we move forward together into this next chapter of our living.
Be thou an ever-present strength with us on our journeys, O Spirt.
In the name of all that is holy,
May it be so.