Prayer for Peace and Justice: Recognizing Earth Day and the Georgetown Environment Initiative

On Tuesday, April 17, we welcomed the Georgetown Environment Initiative as the special guest for our weekly Chaplains’ Tea. Following the tea at our Prayer for Peace and Justice, our Managing Director Aaron Johnson shared a prayer and a poem by Nathalie Handal in honor of our guests and Earth Day.

John Muir, Our National Parks: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”

Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park. Photo by James Marvin Phelps.

 

Accepting Heaven at Great Basin
By Nathalie Handal

When you doubt the world, look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak, cliffs like suspended prayers

contemplate the cerulean, the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades, the wildflowers

look at the bristlecone pine, a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves, sing silently

remember the smell of sagebrush, after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch, is a bridge of questions

in the solitude of dreams, that here
distances disturb desire, to deliver a collision of breaths

the desert echoes, in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way, a heart can light a world.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Prayer:

So we pray: Guiding light, lead us into those places of wonder in our world; help us to find
those hallowed and untamed spaces that reveal to us the truth — of our vulnerability and
our interdependence as living things, together; guide us we pray into a deeper
understanding of what it means to belong. Amen

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Standing for Solidarity, Marching for Change

On the morning of Saturday, March 24, Campus Ministry hosted students for a special interfaith prayer, breakfast, and reflection before walking together to Capitol Hill for the March for Our Lives, a national student-led demonstration in support of tighter gun control. Several students were deeply moved both by the events leading up to the march and the march itself – they share their thoughts here:

Jack Thorman (left), Jewish: I felt incredibly lucky to be at the March for our Lives on Saturday. For the first time in a while, I felt hopeful for the future. It was a statement from our generation that we will not sit idly by as long as those in power continue not to represent our interests. I also could not have been more proud of Campus Ministry than I was on Saturday. The Jewish community and the wider Campus Ministry at Georgetown continue to be spaces that inspire and embolden me to speak up in the face of injustice.

Andrea Dressel (left), LutheranI am so thankful I was able to attend the march on Saturday. For the first time in a while, I feel as though my opinion as a young person in the political sphere is important and even necessary, and this validation was a breath of fresh air. I am also grateful I was able to attend with an interfaith group of Georgetown students and faculty. As a Lutheran, my personal faith practice animates much of my social justice work, and I love having a faith community here at school that lifts one another up in doing God’s work. I’m inspired by the love and passion I saw on Saturday and I pray that it will continue in the coming months to build a safer world.

Rev. Becky Zartman (center), Episcopalian:  Within one week in March, Commonplace, the Episcopal-Lutheran campus ministry, went to go see Wrinkle in Time and also attended March for our Lives. These events may seem unrelated, but they aren’t. Written by a faithful Episcopalian, Wrinkle in Time is the story of an unlikely heroine’s dangerous quest to retrieve her father and fight the forces of evil with no weapons, no violence, no killing. On her quest, the main character, Meg Murray must trust a strength that looks like weakness, rely on faith that looks like foolishness and defeat evil not with evil but with goodness and love. When we, as individuals, choose the non-violent struggle against the evil that permeates our world, we are all Meg Murray. Even though our peaceful witness seemed like foolishness to those who prefer the power of guns, this is how love defeats violence. We can do this. We must do it.

Claire Goldberg, Jewish: The March for Our Lives was one of the most uplifting and inspiring things I’ve ever participated in. Getting to see people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, seeing the Veterans for Gun Reform, seeing all the people from the Religious Action Committee, struck me with so much love and hope. Gun violence is an important issue to so many people for so many different reasons, and to get to see students participate in an interfaith prayer before the march and then rise to action proves that it’s not just thoughts and prayers that matter, its action, and organization.

Bryant King (far left), Roman Catholic: Participating in the March for Our Lives with my interfaith brothers and sisters was a powerful experience. Following the example of Cardinal Cupich and other leaders in the American Church, I was driven to stand up with hundreds of thousands throughout our country calling for justice and the protection of the vulnerable. Faith is not a passive act and it was amazing to be in the presence of so many working for the common good. It’s my hope that people of faith will continue to bend Dr. King’s arc toward greater justice in our society (Amos 5:24).

Adam Wagner (left), Protestant: For me, marching was about showing solidarity and support for a cause bigger than myself. Hearing from such inspirational youth leaders and being surrounded by such passionate people was uplifting. The march was important because it provided a space to manifest a collective movement; however, going forward, we must continue to press for change. Personally, this means approaching activism the same way I approach my faith: making it an integral part of me by reflecting, engaging in dialogue with others, and never ceasing in the battle for love and justice.

Zeke Gutierrez (center), Roman Catholic: I participated in the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24 with the goal of demonstrating my support and unity to the victims of gun violence. I feel this was an issue that affects multiple communities and the movement finally highlighted the need for gun reform. As a Catholic at Georgetown, the friends and members of the community I marched with understood the need for reform as an issue of greater social justice. Being part of the prayer in the morning helped set the tone of the march where I felt closer to my faith.

Brandi Coleman (left), Protestant: Words can not describe how emotional this day was. There was a moment during the march where I stopped and just reflected. I was absorbing just about everything and trying to harness my emotions. There are so many unexplainable events that occur in this world, but the one that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School was not one of them. When our lawmakers finally realize gun control is not an issue they can slide under the rug this country will have a chance to prevent such acts of atrocity. As kids, we were always told we would change the world someday. I don’t think I could have ever imagined just how desperately the world, our home, needs us. We are the generation that has the power to change it all and I pray my generation can do so. I pray my children’s children are not fighting the same uphill battle we are now. Today was a lot of things: sad, frustrating, and unfortunate that it had to occur, but most importantly it was empowering. To dream big dreams was instilled in my generation. It’s now time to turn those dreams into a reality. After seeing what I saw today, standing in the midst of greatness, and being led by the powerful youth of my generation I’d say the future looks brighter.

Max Tinter (left), Jewish: Walking down to the Capitol is always an inspiring event. One cannot help but feel the weight of the city, passing by the buildings in which American history has been written. As we drew closer to the sight of the rally, I became equally inspired by the sheer numbers of students traveling from across the country to advocate for a change they desired. Being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people to watch exclusively young people deliver emotional speeches and personal anecdotes on the impact of gun violence made for a powerful afternoon. As it progressed, I began to realize something I think I will carry with me for a long time: it is not just the bureaucrats in the beautiful buildings that can change the world but also the work and mobilization of the masses. This a powerful cause that has affected countless individuals. Saturday only served to further my faith that efforts for change will not be in vain.

Sean Berman (left), Jewish: For me, the March for Our Lives revealed just how gruesomely mundane and common gun violence is in America. Mass shootings, such as the massacre at Parkland, stun the country, and the March successfully gave voice to several incredibly courageous students who spoke about their traumatic experiences. But the March organizers also illuminated numerous narratives of “everyday” gun violence that largely remain outside of the national discourse. To me, these stories show that our generation is presented with an even more systemic issue about guns than just eliminating AR-15s and high capacity magazines. When I decided to March with an interfaith group from Georgetown, I knew I was adding my voice to a diverse group of Hoyas – which is exactly what tackling gun violence requires. The March for Our Lives taught me that a pluralistic approach to combating this systemic evil in our society is the only way to make sure #neveragain becomes a reality for all Americans, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or ethnicity.
Eamon Coburn (center), Roman Catholic: The sign that has stuck most with me from the March said simply: “One child is worth more than all the guns in the world.” Coincidentally, our day began with the Jewish prayer “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a). I think that really sums up the day for me. One life is so much more important than any amount of materials, let alone guns. I don’t believe anyone could look the mother of a child who was shot and killed in the eye and tell her that any amount of guns are worth that one life. Because to her, that child is gone forever and to us, that world is destroyed. And no amount of guns can bring back that child and no amount of guns can revive that world. We need common-sense gun control because if even only one child lives who otherwise would have died, it will be worth it.
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Prayer for Peace and Justice: Honoring the Women in Our Lives

On March 27, we welcomed the Georgetown Sexual Assault Peer Educators as our special guest at Chaplains’ Tea. After the tea, Rev. Olivia Lane delivered the following prayer for peace and justice, honoring both the month of March as Women’s History Month and the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

As women’s history month and draws to a close as we move through the final days of the Lenten journey and toward the cross, I am reminded of the witness of women, their actions, their voices, their courage to stay close in to grief and death, their willingness to step into the apparent brokenness of the redemption narrative, and believe that kingdom work and the will of God is made known regardless of our interpretation of the events. Today I offer prayers for all those who suffer as a result of the brokenness of our world, especially as it relates to sexual violence and harassment, and I give thanks for those who hold space for hope and an imagination that God’s peace and justice are a part of human existence no matter what the world says.

Let us pray.

God of our mothers, we pray for all the women and girls who are survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. We bravely choose to share our stories in person and by posting. We bravely choose to keep our stories to ourselves for reasons of our own. And we walk alongside survivors whose suppressed memories have been triggered by media, thoughtlessness, and places we pretend are safe. We own our experiences and stories. We did nothing wrong, and we release all shame—shame that was never ours to begin with.

C. God of love and mercy, hear our prayer.

God of truth, as we remember our identities as precious and beloved, we release any shame we were told is ours. In our own time and way, we release the people who didn’t believe us or tried to minimize the truth. We did nothing wrong, and we own the truth.

C. God of love and mercy, hear our prayer.

God of justice, we pray that those who harassed or assaulted us will come to understand the evil that they did, and that they will never do it again. And Lord God, our prayer calls us to action. We will use our voices. We will work to stop lawmakers and others from minimizing assault and blaming victims. We did nothing wrong, and we will work for change.

C. God of love and mercy, hear our prayer.

God of courage, we give thanks for all those who work to change a culture that is supremely bent away from your loving mercy and care for all people, and we thank you for the witness of people across the ages who engage our imagination around justice and spur on your good work in the world.

C. God of love and mercy, hear our prayer.

God of wisdom, help us spread knowledge about what it means to live in a rape culture. Help us to stand firm in our faith and embolden us to work to end sexual violence, relationship violence, and intimidation whenever it occurs in our churches and places of worship, our communities, and the world.

C. God of love and mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Portions of this prayer drawn from a litany by the Women of the ELCA in response to #MeToo.

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Prayer for Peace & Justice: Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, Rev. Brandon Harris delivered the following prayer honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King but not, as Rev. Harris said, the sanitized version of his life, but the radical King. The Georgetown community was joined in today’s Prayer for Peace & Justice by the congregation from The House of Hope Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia who happened to be on a campus tour at the time (pictured above). The House of Hope was formed more than 138 years ago and counts among its former pastors none other than Dr. Martin L. King, Sr.   

This evening is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” sermon at the historic Mason Temple Church of God in Christin Memphis, Tennessee. Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of his assassination and the subsequent riots in D.C.

O God of Justice & Truth

Who calls us by name and liberates us from the oppression of apathy, disdain, prejudice, and leads us into the light of freedom.

Have mercy on us

Have mercy on us for ignoring the prophet’s call to do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Have mercy on us for preferring sanitized messages of justice … we love to hear the words O God of a land where children are judged by the content of their character but we fail to make that world a possibility.

Have mercy on us when we prefer statements of diversity and inclusion, mouthing words of peace while our actions fail us.

Help us to heed the words of your servant Dr. King who reminded us that “Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all. It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than what one would have for a pet.”

Have mercy on us for our silence in the face of injustice, failing to speak up while black men are begin gunned down by those sworn to protect us.

Forgive us while our educational systems fail to educate all of our children, while poverty enslaves those around us, and for failing to truly live as a genuine community of love and mercy.

In your mercy God

Liberate us

From the captivity of pride

Liberate us from the sins of our foreparents who set up systems of oppression that we benefit from

Liberate us into freedom

The freedom to seek the common good

The freedom to love others as you have loved us

The freedom to be brave to speak truth to power

The freedom to care the least, the last, and the left out

The freedom to care, genuinely care for the world around us

Lead us O God, Into Justice, Into Righteousness, Into Life that empowered by your spirit

We may live a life of goodness, truth, and justice for if we can help somebody along the way then our living will not be in vain.

Amen

 

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When Was the Last Time Your Heart Was Broken?

As part of Jesuit Heritage Week 2018, we had the pleasure of hosting Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, for a Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture. Sister Simone shared with the community her reflections on the importance of heartbreak in the work that she does to advocate for marginalized groups in society. 

The most moving and inspiring part of Sister Simone’s talk was her discussion of heartbreak. Like many people, I try to avoid heartbreak as much as possible. Heartbreak reveals my vulnerability—that I am not in total control when outside forces can have such a disturbing impact on me. Sister Simone’s conceptualization of heartbreak, however, highlighted the courage and boldness it takes to be willing to have our hearts broken, for when we open ourselves up to listening to and witnessing the life experiences of others, it is then that our hearts are able to break. Break for the mother whose son has been murdered, for the ill man who cannot afford medical treatment, and even for those who hurt us, who have themselves been hurt by someone else.

I had to ask myself throughout the lecture, how often do I let my heart sincerely and compassionately break? As much as I may pat myself on the back as an educated Georgetown student who wants to make positive changes in our world, what do I do when I’m confronted with pain and suffering? How easy it is for me to turn to numbing activities, scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, because if I paid enough attention I might actually be called to do more than tweet the latest #PrayFor____. As Sister Simone put it, if we are too busy protecting our hearts, then we are not engaged with our communities.

Sister Simone’s words were sobering, but they were inspiring and hopeful at the same time. For as she said, when we have the courage to have our hearts broken, when we move from a spirituality that is only for ourselves into a spirituality that engages with others, that is when the Spirit comes alive. As she talked about her experiences listening to and speaking with others and having her heart broken, she showed that when we speak from a broken heart, a heart that has genuinely been opened up to see and understand others, that is when healing takes place.

What does this mean for me as a college student? As Ignatian spirituality has helped me to develop my interior life, through things like praying the examen or going on retreat, it is tempting for me to use my spirituality for my own gain. However, if I as a student am to truly embody what it means to be a person for others, I must actively push past myself and engage with the realities and experiences of those around me. As Sister Simone said so eloquently, the desert is able to restore us, but then we must dare to go into the center of life—that area of life where we are most vulnerable, where we see one another, and where we embrace the brokenness of our humanity.

Written by Alexis Larios, COL ’18

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